Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Awards and Plein air in Subiaco & the Benedictine Monastery.

The Tuscany Plein Air team experienced a very enjoyable and rewarding Plein Air event this weekend in the Lazio region of Italy. We'd like to thank the town of Subiaco and the Benedictine monasteries for their warm welcome and for the awards they generously issued to artists.

We were honored to accept prizes for our paintings from the monastery of Saint Benedict and the town of Subiaco.

Subiaco is in the Lazio region, the Upper Aniene Valley, close to Rome. We joined 80 other artists from all over the world at the "Estemporanea di Pittura," a festival of plein air, sponsored by the town and the local religious orders. The administrators of the event was the committee of "Ora et Labora" headed by Paolo Lozzi who worked tirelessly to make sure everyone felt welcome.

Tom Byrne placed third and Rory Haran received special mention, for their Plein Air paintings, bringing home nice prize awards.
Tom J. Byrne and Rory Harans award winning paintings

Some of the artists who met on Saturday evening

The artistic competition drew 80 international participants to a beautifully orchestrated two day landscape painting event. The art venues were spread out across the historic town and between two historically and visually spectacular Benedictine monasteries, some of the most beautiful in the world.
Painting in the Piazza of Subiaco, Umbria. Llewellyn & Rory.

Setting up easels beside the monastery.
The beautiful town of Subiaco, nestling among the hills of Umbria, is a perfect painting location:

There was an international group of artists at this years event and we'd like to thank Kelly Medford, an American artist based in Rome for her help.

The people of Subiaco gave us a very warm welcome and we deeply appreciate all the help from the organisers from the monastery and the town itself. It's a fabulous venue for painting plein air.

Here is a link to the fascinating troglodyte monastery of Saint Benedict:

The Monastery of Saint Benedict is extremely beautiful and dramatic within and without. Joined to the hillside with a beautiful brick facade, it conceals the original troglodyte caves which are spectacularly decorated in fresco artworks. Rough stone rests beside beautifully painted walls and the shape of the monastery follows the downward course of the naturally occurring caves. The hand carved ceilings and the original rough walls contrast each other dramatically and despite it's great beauty, there is no way to forget that you are inside a mountain.

The alter and a ceiling inside the caves.


The light and landscape surrounding the monastery is spectacular especially in the evening and early morning. A painters paradise.
A statue of Saint Benedict in the cave where he lived and contemplated God.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Non Resident Workshops

We are pleased to announce that all the reservations for this September's Tuscany Plein Air event are taken.

The villa is fully booked but we are still welcoming non resident attendees to take part in the workshops. This would suit people who are living in or around Florence. It's a 15 minute journey by car from the center.

This is a 7 day event, beginning on the 12th of September, where painting landscapes, choosing good compositions and understanding the process of Plein Air painting are demonstrated.

The mediums covered are watercolor, oils and pastels. Techniques include methods of composing a scene, perspective explained, methods of making your own paint, value studies and much more.

We expect it to be a very fun event with lots of learning. Buffet meals are included.

Non resident attendees are welcome to take part in the social evening events. For details: http://tuscanypleinair.com/Bookings/guest_fee.html

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Complex Cityscape in Watercolor

It's a beautiful day in Florence.
The river is still and the light is clear and crisp. I want to capture these buildings and the water flowing out of the tunnel beneath the Polimoda Institute of Fashion Design. A beautiful building, in itself it would be a challenge but with the composition I've chosen it becomes a great deal more complex due to the perspective and the relationship of buildings to one another. Scale and proportion make things more complex.

It's also hot. In the 40°C range (100°F) The scene you choose is effected by the need for shelter from the sun. Fortunately, thanks to a series of trees along the riverbank I had shelter. It was quiet and free from many pedestrians. So it looked like a good spot to begin creating a composition.

Step 1: When sketching out a complex scene, with multiple buildings, scale and perspective are among the first considerations. The most effective approach is to begin with simple block forms. When the forms are correct add the details.

I'm using a 2b pencil but have a very light touch. The contrast on this sketch is hightened. Light lines with a hb pencil are enough.

Even in an ideal location you can expect distractions.
This time I had a giant lawnmower which passed in front of me, along the river bank 6 times. He was very polite but the flying grass, disturbed insects and dust made an impact and slowed things down a lot.

I'm using a steel easel here. Good and heavy and the attached shelf really helps.
Step 2:
First painting.
This watercolour is 30 x 43 cm so it's large and the temperature is in the 40°c range, making it necessary to work in sections. I washed in the sky first. Then painted in all the dark areas around the building. Framing it with it's darks.

The window of opportunity is from 10am to 1pm each day. Then the light changes. After 2pm it is completely flat with no contrast.

Step 4:
Day 3. Returning the next morning I begin adjusting the values in the central tree, the river bank and adding in the roofs of buildings.

Values are brought in line with the overall scene and general shadow shapes applied to buildings.

Any scene containing more than one building takes a lot longer to paint unless the buildings are joined by the same shadow.

Step 5:
Day 4. This is the final painting. 
This is the Polimoda International Institute of Fashion Design on Via Curtatone, beside the American Consulate, in Florence, Italy.

If there is one last thing to say about this process it's that you need to strike a harmony between all the darks. Then there is the balance between the darkest darks and the lights. If there is too much light it makes the darks appear alien, out of place. Though to cover a beautiful white shimmering spot with even the slightest glaze of color may seem a travesty, without that, the painting will be sterile. So a delicate balance has to be struck.

art by Tom J. Byrne

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

The Scholarship Finalist is .........

Thanks to all the artists who applied for the scholarship this year with Tuscany Plein Air.

It was a pleasure to speak with the shortlisted artists via Skype. It would be lovely to have everyone attend but unfortunately that isn't possible.

Although the standard was very high throughout and the artists all had a lot of appeal on many different levels, it came down to two finalists and it was extremely difficult to chose between them.

We literally split every hair possible to come to a decision. 

The last two whom we struggled with were Chula Beauregard and Pat Mahony.

Both great artists, each in their own way and a pleasure to speak with and share insights. However, this September we are forced to choose only one of the two.

And the Finalist is.....
Pat Mahoney

You can see Pat's art here http://www.mahonyart.com

We are sincerely looking forward to the process of learning and teaching with Pat this September.

Thanks once again to everyone who contacted us with an application for this years scholarship. We hope to meet you at some point in the future.

For people interested in learning about Chula Beauregards art, please visit her site http://chulabeauregard.com

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Tuscany Plein Air, Scholarship Shortlist

We’re very glad to announce the artists chosen for our shortlist this September.

Thanks to everyone who submitted works for this opportunity.
Applications came in from India, The USA, Eastern Europe and the UK. We spent a lot of time looking at and discussing each one.

Our criteria in choosing artists ranged from skills in drawing, creativity, their use of their chosen media and interest in the landscape as a medium of expression. The emphasis was on finding an artist who would most benefit from the workshops and demonstrations, with the potentiality for progress and willingness to contribute to the process of learning.

Because you can’t judge that from a finished artwork, we Skype interviewed all of the artists who made it to the shortlist and to celebration them and their work below are their names and links to their works.

We will announce the actual winner of the scholarship early next week. The decision will not be based on the style of their work or the medium they paint with. It is because of their potentiality for progress and the likelihood that they would bring as much to the table as they received in the process of learning.

The artists:

Heather Harding. UK.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/heatherhardingart?fref=ts
Website: www.heatherioneharding.com

Angela Minkova, Bulgaria / Sofia.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/angela.minkova?fref=ts
Website: http://www.artangela.com/

Pat Mahony. CA, USA.
Webpage: http://www.mahonyart.com/

Chula Beauregard. Co, USA.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChulaBeauregardFineArt?fref=ts
Webpage: www.chulabeauregard.com

Silvio Silvestri. Ca USA.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/silviosilvestri2?fref=ts
Webpage: http://silviosilvestri.com/

Vanessa Bryson, UK
Vanessa Bryson. Bahamas Beach.
No Facebook,  No Webpage