Painting outside in Italy was a lot of fun. I think I could do it forever! These potted geraniums were high up above a small shop on a side street in sunny Orta.

Trying to capture the sense of being there is MUCH easier to do right on location than it is from a photo. But the hard part is doing a painting, even though it's small, right on the spot with no pre-planning and little time to make a sketch.

It never bothers me to have someone watch me paint, but what does distract me are all the inconveniences of painting outside, away from the comforts of my studio. But that didn't matter this time since we were in beautiful Italy.

"WELL TENDED" Transparent Watercolor on 140#CP Fabriano Artistico, 7 x 5" COLLECTED



This sunlit facade near a lake in Italy caught my eye a couple of weeks ago. We were traveling in northern Italy and spent that day on small Lake Orta, in a charming town chock full of paintings ready to be painted. Six of us were on a journey to explore and enjoy one of the most beautiful areas of the world.

We sat down to paint on the back stoop of an old but beautiful building, surrounded by a cobblestone street, and spent over two hours trying to create what we'd been experiencing. Below you can see my interpretation that day of the photo above.

The work in progress here shows the point when I didn't like how the painting was going. It looked too 'coloring bookish,' so I took a one inch brush and washed water over the whole thing. Of course, the darker areas bled a little but the overall effect helped soften and tie the painting together better. I threw some table salt on and let it dry.

At that point, I was thinking the picture was a lost cause even though the day was wonderful. I put it aside. However, that night, pen and ink worked its magic on the painting and really helped it along.

A few days later, I gave the finished pen and ink watercolor to Laura, who owned the villa where we were to stay while we were in Varenna on Lake Como. I think she really liked it.

I plan to paint this scene again, spending more time on the drawing and composition and focus on the things that made me want to paint it in the first place. While we were in Italy, I painted many days, completing about a dozen small paintings. But once we got to Venice, all painting ceased as I immersed myself in the incredible beauty there. I have enough photos to paint from for a couple of lifetimes and memories to last forever.

"LAURA'S GIFT" Transparent Watercolor on 140#CP Arches, 12 x 9" COLLECTED



Using just two colors to paint with is one way to simplify and bring unity to a painting. The focus can then be on the shapes and the movement created by the lights and darks.

This painting has only Raw Sienna and French Ultramarine in it, both paints by Winsor Newton. Painted over ten years ago, it helped me see the importance of strong value patterns in a painting.

"NEAR BRIDGEROCK" Transparent Watercolor on 140#CP Arches, 11 x 7" COLLECTED