Marzamemi, Sicily: the story so far

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The painting of Marzamemi, the fishing village in Sicily, which I have started and which is in its early stages.

Not much sky in this paicture which is useful, as I wanted the roof tops of the buildings to remain sharp if possible against the skyline. I used my old friend, the Mediterranean mix of Phthalo Blue and Cobalt for the sky, not wetting the paper beforehand, so that the colour didn’t run all over the place

I have tidied up the buildings to a certain extent and let the colour of the buildings bleed down into the sea. The sea colour is the same as the sky. I let that dry hard before going any further.

After a day or so, I picked up the painting again, and put some more colour into the sea. I avoided going over the reflections of the buildings, but just went over the rest with sweeps of sea colour, to give the effect of breeze ripples, I hope

I went right across the boats, risky I know but I think all the colours to be used on the boats will cover what I have done

Since taking this photograph I have introduced indigo into the foreground boats, for the detailing and deep shadow. I really want these two boats to come out at the viewer and command most of the attention.

Toying now which colours to use to be faithful to the original whilst at the same time, I want the combination to work as a painting. Winsor Blue perhaps which I haven’t used for some time, red along the waterline and white gouache. There will be some trial and error I think, so we shall see.

Every now and then I repeat that I am not an art teacher and have no qualification other than experience. I am very happy for people to watch, and if  what I do is helpful, then great. By the same token, I like to learn so alternative suggestions are always welcome

Marzamemi, Sicily : Composed Drawing

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Using the boat photograph and various other photographs which I took at the time, I have put together quite a simple composition, which I hope nonetheless will be effective

As a drawing, it is none too exciting, but when painted up, I am hoping that these bright, Mediterranean colours will provide the stimulus

With the exception of buildings on the far shore, nearly everything is blue or white. Different shades of blue, too, which will be challenging ( please excuse that overworked word) to do successfully as a watercolour

Textures will be interesting too. The boats in the foreground look as though their hulls have been reinforced with fibre glass, not too professionally, so that consequently the surface of them is quite rough. How to achieve that with a watercolour painting, I am not sure, probably with gouache applied thickly to give an impasto finish. Anyway we can play around with that.

We only had a short stop off here. Just enough time for a coffee, in one of the lovely little cafes in the main square, which was charming, and a walk round the harbour, which is a mix of boat repair workshops, restaurants and boutiques. That may sound an unlikely mix but seemed to work well.

Marzamemi is fairly close to Syracuse, the history of which is fascinating, and a chapter in itself. Around that eastern part of the island, we had spent quite a lot of time visiting spots used on location filming for the TV cop series Montalbano. If you are not familiar with the series it was broadcast from 1999 until now, something like 11 separate series, so very popular. Marzamemi was not one of those places, so something of a relief in a way. Don’t get me wrong, I have watched the series at home, and it is very good, and we knew what we were going to look at before we joined the tour, but there was a lot of it

As I say, I enjoyed watching Montalbano at home, except I would have preferred subtitles to a dubbed voice. Dubbing never works for me, always slightly out of sync, and you don’t have to be a lipreader to see the face doesn’t match the dialogue. I much prefer the Scandinavian crime dramas like “The Bridge” which we get which are subtitled.

But I am going off the point. Enough to say that Marzamemi was delightful and I look forward to doing this painting.

Paintings of Sicily

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I really need two more paintings for my exhibition in March. I love painting Italy, and am going to pick two locations from our trip to Sicily last year. One lovely little spot was the fishing village of Marzamemi, which is on the southern side of the island, not far from Syracuse. Actually it is more for the tourists than anything else now, but there are some nice little boats tied up in the harbour, obviously old but cared for. They are not pristine, but I don’t want that anyway. What I prefer are something like the boats in my photograph, painted by hand in these bright Mediterranean colours. How to get that bright blue will be challenging in itself and whether I can capture that thick hand-painted effect will be another matter

I took several pictures, and I will have to cull bits and pieces for the far distance, which is the far side of the harbour. I can generate something from these for the composition. There are buildings like cafes on the shore as well as other craft both on and out of the water

It could be an interesting task putting these together, but as I say, making something out of all that bright blue will be fun

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On the north west side of the island near the town of Marsala, is a quiet area where salt is evaporated from the sea-water in large pans. We watched the salt being piled high, and then being taken away for processing , with a constant shuttle of trucks. The mills are picturesque. I don’t think any of them work now, but they are still part of the scene

I thought I could make a painting from the pictures I took. I hope so, I will have juggle them about and see

I also bought two nice frames at a fair recently in a distressed finish, which look very Italian, so I hope that works out. I just have to get down to it

I received the brochure from the Tate the other day, and a new David Hockney exhibition starts next month, with special viewing times for members, which is me, which is a very welcome innovation. To be looked forward to

A Week in Sicily

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The Rooftops of Ragusa

We have just returned from a wonderful week in Sicily. I am exhausted as we packed a lot in, and did more walking than I am used to. The city of Ragusa is beautiful built on the sides of gorges, so dramatic in themselves. However everything is steep, and the climb we did to get this picture was no exception. I am not sure how many steps as I lost count at 150.

We were about ten minutes too early for the lovely baroque church in the background, so our guide took us to the top for the view, one picture and straight back down. Bit of a killer in the hot sun

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This is the way down, only more of it, as the steps wind on round the houses.

Sicily has been hit by several earthquakes in its history, but the big one in the c17 destroyed nearly everything. Consequently all the churches seem to be in the Baroque style following a massive rebuilding programme, in whichever town you visit.

Syracuse was fascinating with its wonderful archaeological park. Sicily was Greek from 750BC, and the park shows where slaves quarried massive stone blocks from the hillside for their building programme. Greek theatres followed by Roman amphitheatres abound. The Romans took Syracuse from Greek hands in the early third century, and also drove out the last of the Carthaginians

Sicily changed hands so many times throughout its long history. Goths and Vandals after the Romans, Arabs and then the Norman Conquest in the c11, creating the Kingdom of Sicily, curiously matching England which became Norman in 1066 just before Sicily

You often see images of St Thomas a Becket in churches in Sicily. Henry II of England’s daughter, Joan married King William II of Sicily. You may remember that Henry had Becket murdered in Canterbury Cathedral, an act that horrified the rest of Europe. William venerated Becket in Sicily in order to distance himself from Henry’s crime, which later Henry was to do penance for

Of more recent interest, were the location shots for the Montalbano  detective series shown on TV. These were in Raguso, Scipli and Punta Secca. Lost on me as I never watched the series however

Some superb shots for paintings, including the roof top view which I have shown, and also the beautiful Medieval windmills on the west side of the island. Still, for now, I shall be getting back to the drawing of the Camargue horses which I left before I went away

A nice message waiting for me when I got back. Someone is buying the painting of Langstone Harbour, which is shown in the archive of this blog somewhere

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The Medieval windmills and saltpans near Trapani