Most images below were painted on site in Italy. BUT first read about the beauty of Tuscany and then I'll share my Tuscany watercolors!
Tuscany is a work of art that I've tried to capture in these Tuscany watercolors. It's majestic peaks topped with medieval villages give way to undulating hills of wheat, barley, and brilliant red poppies in the spring and sunflowers in late summer and fall. Punctuated by the bright yellow "broom" plant, the poppies stand out in the landscape as polka dots on fabric. In some areas there are fields of poppies which blanket the earth with an exciting glow. Some farmers plant rows of poppies between their crops which add to the design of the landscape. Then there are the olive groves of blue grey and the early grapevines of spring green, each marking the earth with linear patterns in every direction.
Around every turn is another glorious view. Lucky enough to have clear weather on our painting days we loaded ourselves with sun block to protect our skin from the incredibly bright sunlight, donned hats or visors, and an extra shirt or jacket to keep us warm in the shade. Tuscany was a bit cooler than I had expected.
During our transfer from Massa Marittima to Bagno Vignoni, we had rain, and the sky was filled with dark clouds, broken up by an occasional streak of light. These patches of sunlight made the landscape even more dramatic as the clouds moved across the fields of ochre, red and shades of green.
Massa Marittima is a small village with many interesting streets lined with arches that support passage ways to second floor homes. These narrow streets are wonderful subject matter for Tuscany watercolors with the light and shadows and the colorful flower boxes, wrought iron railings which display ornate craftsmanship of days gone by. Ochre and sienna colored stones make up the walls of many buildings and the walls around the city.
A day visit to San Gimignano was a day of climbing up the narrow steep street to the main square or "campo". The minute I saw the first tower, I felt like I was on the set of "A Beautiful Life" which was filmed there.
We painted and enjoyed gelato (daily!). Mmmmmmm good. The group came from all over the world. South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, the USA and I didn't know which English accent to come home with! We all laughed about the different pronunciations of words. In the previous week, (before my arrival) the group painted in Portofino, and there were people from Switzerland, France and the UK also.
I came home with a new phrase (for me). "Good on you!" Everyone but those of us from the US used the term frequently.
The Isle of Elba gave us a quick look at the small home that Napoleon built for himself and his family during his exile. We lunched in Marciana Marina and took a quick trip across the island to dip our toes in the surf and have another gelato. There was no time to paint as it was a long trip on the ferry back and forth and then more time to drive back to our hotel.
Another side trip was to Siena. Well, I understand everyone loves Siena, but it was so crowded with tourists that it left a lot to be desired. The square is huge and filled with people and this wasn't even high tourist season. I cannot imagine what it must be like in summer. Everywhere we went presented another uphill climb, and we were dragging our art supplies all the while.
Next hotel was in Bagno Vignoni, possibly the Hot Springs Arkansas of medieval Tuscany. One hotel features a spa with pools of different temperatures for the delight of weary tourists and their families. The ancient baths overlook rolling hills and in the distance stands La Rocca, another Tuscany watercolors painting sight for half of the group. The incline was so steep that several of us made the executive decision not to damage our hips, knees, and elbows trying to drag stuff up the slope. I understand it was the most beautiful view of the entire painting trip. Too bad. I will just have to imagine what I missed.
From Bagno Vignoni we toured Pienza (FABULOUS for painting Tuscany watercolors!) and the church where "The English Patient" was filmed. Then on to Montalcino, another strenuous but charming uphill climb, then Montapulciano....an impossible 45º climb just to see the sights. Thank God we didn't take the art stuff. I would never have made it! We saw a couple of other villages. After a while, all the streets seemed to look alike! Narrow, dark shadows, bright sunlight, flower boxes, white umbrellas in front of the restaurants and people.
But, the hillside views and landscape never seemed to bore me. I think I must have had my mouth open in wonder and amazement the entire trip. I'll be painting Tuscany watercolors for years!
To home by way of Rome, where I stayed overnight, and walked almost the entire city seeing places I have always read about. There was no time to really study the history or see the Vatican or its treasures, but by walking I met people from different countries, shared an umbrella during a downpour with a girl from Bulgaria, photographed dramatic wet streets and the light of the setting sun on the coliseum and other ruins in the middle of the city. I was in heaven! BUT, was I ever sore from all the trekking! A good soaking in a hot tub relaxed the aching joints, and led to a good night's sleep.
Around 600 photographs filled my digital camera with ideas for painting Tuscany watercolors for quite a while. Many have been painted already for an art show coming up this weekend, and in two weeks I will be headed for France for another two week painting trip. I think after that I will stay home for a while and just paint in my studio, enjoy the rest of the summer and relax.
I hope that in all of your travels you can take the time to really enjoy the beauty in this world; the colors which we take for granted, the light and shadows that make landscapes so dramatic, the charm of the local color, the people that make up a small community, the friendliness of people even though we don't speak their language.....All this makes life worthwhile.
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