Painting plein air in Vernazza, is not as easy as I was thinking before I left Australia.
I was dreaming about carrying my nice new bag and easel out onto the beautiful coast of the Cinque Terre,. The warm Italian sun on my face, a slight breeze from behind and the stunning view of the colourful buildings sliding down into the sea.
It is really like this. Walk to the railway station from the hotel. Climb 30 steps, walk, climb 40 steps, lift bag up really high into the train that is pulling out of the station.
Squeeze into the train with thousands of other tourists, be squashed in with my face pushed against a window. At least I have a view. I knock someone unconscious with my easel as I jump from the train. Walk a kilometre, walk up a hill, then turn around and walk down again. Then walk down 80 steps and finally we are in our beautiful position ready for our demonstration by Alvaro Castagnet.
It is so sunny in Vernazza this morning, Alvaro uses a shade to stop the hot sun drying his washes too quickly. Alvaro finishes a wonderful painting.
It takes me forever to set up. I think I am procrastinating. Putting that first wash on is really scary. I finally get into the painting and struggle with the hot sun shining down, drying everything so quickly.
I am too slow to finish my painting. There is no detail and Alvaro gives me a critique and he tells me what to do for my next painting. There is a vast range of abilities in the group, we are all enjoying the learning experience.
I realise I only have half an hour before our next demonstration at 2pm. My lovely sister Zoe buys us some lunch and we quickly eat it and at the same time we try to burn the image of this little town into our minds.
My sister Zoe on the right, she is my support buddy and best friend. I would not have been able to do this without her help and encouragement.
Alvaro chooses the next position for his demonstration. This one is lovely, there is washing hanging out of the window, a lovely Taverna and umbrellas in front of us. I cannot wait to see what he does with this scene.
Alvaro talks to us while he is painting. First he tells us what he wants to achieve with the painting. Where he will put in the shadow and light. He quickly establishes his first wash. The colours mingle on the paper and provide the luminosity for the finished painting. After the the first wash Alvaro needs to dry the painting. This usually involves Alvaro’s lovely wife Anna Maria charming a shop keeper as she asks to plug Alvaro’s hair dryer into their power supply. Alvaro completes the painting with his second wash and the final detail. Another stunning painting.
It is our turn. I am starting to tire after being in the sun all morning. I am determined to do a better job on the first wash this time, use less brush strokes and get the right proportion of pigment and water. I give myself a pep talk and say, try to learn one new thing at a time.
First wash going on nicely. Feeling good. And that is where it stopped that day. Jet lag and with my brain working overtime I decided to call it a day. We all missed our train home and had to wait another hour and a half for the next train. Alvaro kindly said he would do another demonstration for us. I lent him a piece of my paper and he proceeded to do what he called a quick sketch.
Another amazing Alvaro painting.
We packed up and headed for the train. Happy and exhausted we arrived back in Monterosso in time for a quick drink while we chatted and soaked up the atmosphere at a beachfront bar.