Sunday, March 22, 2015

Travels: How to paint those wonderful Italian terracotta tile roofs

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Bill Breckon, owner of The Watermill at Posara, the world-renowned centre for the arts in rural Tuscany, Italy ( sends me this lovely step-by-step guide for anyone who’s ever wanted to try to capture those wonderful Italian roofs with their paintbrush. Bill says:
 Leslie Fehling, one of America’s leading sketching book artists and a Watermill tutor , is coming to The Watermill this year to lead a unique ten-day painting holiday, called Creating your own watercolour travel journal. Participants will spend three days in glorious Florence PLUS a week-long painting workshop at the mill and in the beautiful surrounding Tuscan countryside. She has sent me  some tips vital for painting in Italy: how to capture those terracotta tile roofs.

Leslie says: “Red-orange terracotta roofs are a distinctive part of the Tuscan landscape, as typical as rolling hills, vineyards and cypress trees. They add a bright spot of colour to a painting, and often may be indicated with nothing more than a splash of burnt sienna.  The rusty red colour sings in a landscape filled with its complement, green.

“When sketching distant views that include clay tile roofs, I paint them very simply…

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For a mid-range view, like the sketch below, a bit more detail can be added to suggest the dips between vertical rows of tiles. A few quick brush strokes serve to indicate individual tiles here and there. There’s no need to paint them all.

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The only time you’ll need to worry about including more details is when you’re focusing in on a roof in the foreground of your sketch. In that case, here’s an approach you may want to try:
·     Study the roof and note any irregularities – a broken or crooked tile, an area that’s moss-covered, etc.  You’ll want to include those unique details in your sketch. You’re not just painting any roof, you’re painting this particular roof.
·     Do a preliminary sketch in pencil. This is your chance to figure out the angles and spacing of the roof tiles.
·     Ink the sketch, if desired. (I used a Pigma Micron 01 black pen for the sketch shown here.) There’s no need to trace over every pencil line or to draw every tile.
·     Erase unwanted pencil lines.

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·     Paint a variegated wash for your base color, which will be the lightest tones on the tiles.
·     Use warm colors such as Winsor Orange, Burnt Sienna, Alizarin Crimson, Raw Sienna, Quinacridone Gold, or Burnt Umber.
·     Touch the lower edge of the wash with a wet brush and allow some of the color to bleed onto the wall below. This will help to unify the painting.
·     Add a pale warm tone to the wall, if desired.

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·     Add varying mid-tones to areas of the roof or to individual tiles.
·     Paint a variegated base wash of greys, browns, and yellow ochre for the building’s stone walls.

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·     Begin painting shadows. I used several different color combinations for shadows, like Ultramarine Blue + Rose Violet (or Quinacridone Violet) + Burnt Umber (or Burnt Sienna or Quinacridone Gold)
·     Add shadows between vertical rows of tiles.
·     Add shadows at the base of individual tiles. Vary the color and darkness of the shadows, so the tiles don’t look too uniform.
·     Paint the shadow under the bottom row of tiles.
·     Paint any support boards or eaves that show under the bottom row of tiles. (In the photo I worked from, a horizontal support board showed below the last row of tiles.)

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·     Begin painting the stone wall, indicating mortar joints.
·     Use a natural sponge to dab on some color to indicate texture on the wall.
·     Add any other detailing to the wall. (My photo showed bricks on the corners of the building, half-covered with mortar, so I painted them at this point.)
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·      Paint the darkest shadows on the tile roof.
·     Add a touch of very dark shadow color under the bottom row of tiles.
·     Paint the shaded side of the building with a purple-grey wash. (Ultramarine Blue + Quinacridone Violet or Rose Violet + a touch of Burnt Sienna or Burnt Umber to tone it down)
·     Use the same purple-grey to paint the shadow under the roof overhang. Run a clean, damp brush along the lower edge of the shadow to soften the line.
·     Add any final spots of color to the painting.
·     Lift highlights on the roof tiles with a damp brush, if needed.

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