Saturday 21 October 2017


I call a thumb-nail sketch a mini-bozzetto.

When it is not possible to work from life,  a mini-bozzetto is a very useful trick to achieve a harmonious final painting.
Dawn at the Dump, oil on canvas - 60 x 48cm
The only way I could paint this scene was to use my photographic references and my emotive and visual memory of the experience there.
Having decided on the composition and prepared the drawing on the canvas,  I made a small sketch of the general tonal scheme and tonal balance, keeping the same final canvas proportions. This mini-bozzetto  is painted in oils on whatever small bits of prepared wooden panel I can lay my hands on in the studio.

Mini-bozzetto 13  x 9 cm
I select which colours I am going to limit myself to. In this case: Ultramarine Blue, Viridian Green, a little Cadmium Yellow medium, Cadmium Red and my old favourite Pozzuoli Earth..A limited palette is a fine way to create a unity within a painting. There is no black colour in either painting, only white added, in this case Titanium.

Since the sketch is so small I can see immediately if it looks right, and tweak it accordingly. Whilst working on the bigger canvas I frequently refer to the colour and tone of various areas to make sure I'm keeping to the overall plan. It is so easy to get led astray, especially with the tones.

My teacher, Signorina Nera Simi called this final balance of tone and colour within a painting "l'insieme del quadro" roughly translated as "the unity of the painting".
As a struggling student, I remember her saying to me that this was one of the most difficult aspects to achieve in the finished painting.

So any trick or prop is most welcome!

To learn more about the Dead Sea project go to
To see photos of the dump :


Monte Altissimo September 2019   Oil on panel 15 x 27cm English:      Since my last blog with lockdown  finally terminated in Italy, I have...