Saturday 30 May 2020

Portrait Bronze of Signorina Simi

Portrait Bronze of Signorina Simi (1890 -1987)

Bronze portrait of Nerina Simi by Anne Shingleton. Height 55cm, life-size

Thoughts on making the portait of my teacher, Nerina Simi.

Before I can describe the emotions I experienced making this portrait sculpture I would like to explain how I came to study under Signorina Simi and why she was so important in my life, and in that of many others too.

It was a chance in a million in the days before the internet to have knowledge of the teaching of Nerina Simi. (Her real name is Nera, but she was often called Nerina). Her fame instead was spread worldwide by her students, and that is how I heard.
It was the late 1970s in the UK, and I had completed 3 years of university (Zoology) and 2 years art school, and was working from my parents’ home with whatever came my way as an illustrator, printmaker and portrait artist.
At that time galleries and institutions were encouraging contemporary art to be abstract, to make installations or videos. However much I tried the British art environment could not offer me a future. I did not fit in. On visiting a private exhibition by the artist Pamela Russell in my local Dorset countryside, I admired the light in her paintings. She told me how she had studied in the Italian city of Florence, with a lady called Nerina Simi, who, if she was still alive, would be very old, and gave me the address to write to.
The studio Simi on the corner of Via Tripoli, Firenze.
To cut a long story short, at the invitation by letter of Nerina herself, there I was that following October in 1980, clutching my portfolio and anxiously ringing the bell of the studio at No 1, Via Tripoli, Florence.
I was shown in by the robust looking maid and indicated to wait in a little dark anteroom. A small figure limped slowly down the corridor towards me. She was a bright eyed, slightly stooped lady with hair tidily drawn back in a bun and a string of pearls around her neck. She welcomed me in English. With a gracious, broad smile she chose her words carefully and instantly put me at my ease. I was to start the next day. You can imagine my excitement!

Photos of the interior of the studio taken in the late 1970s
I found myself an empty easel at the back of the studio, far from the posing model. Nerina Simi would visit each student at every morning and afternoon session. From where I was sitting I could see all the other students’ drawings and they seemed to be going so slowly. When she entered the room I was the first student to be visited, and I had already placed the whole figure on the page.
Very gently and simply she explained how to measure and how to look and how to translate my observations onto paper delicately with a sharpened stick of charcoal. My errors shouted out at me, all of which suddenly seemed monumental and hugely embarassing. I turned my paper over and started again.
Nerina Simi with student Joke Frima late 70s

As she moved on to the next student, I had to struggle to hide my tears of relief and happiness. Finally for the first time in my life, in the art world, not only was I being taught by someone who said it how it was, but she gave logical reasons to back up her arguments, and did so in a kindly way. This was a scientific language that was familiar to me. It had been a stressful decision to come to Italy on my own and in that moment I knew I was in the right place, at the right time.
Photo taken of me in the studio when making an informal visit outside studio hours in 1981.
 Most, but not all, the students in the studio were like me, non-Italian, female and young, so it was easy for me to make friends. “La Signorina”, as we affectionately called her was like a kindly mother figure to us all individually, and we were all aware that it was a special priviledge to be studying with her. Nearly 25 years on since her death those of us who remain in touch with each other still consider ourselves part of this very special family.
I was intoxicated by the experience of my new student life in Florence. I was in my late 20s, and with a sense of freedom from my English upbringing. I was literally walking down streets that would have been familiar to great artists of the past; Donatello, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. Every day, except Sundays, I sat with my fellow students in a high ceilinged room that reeked of the late 1800s, with her father’s, Filadelfo Simi’s, (1849 – 1923), dusty paintings stacked high on all the walls. The lessons we were learning were a tangible link through him, to the Parisian atelier/studio of Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824 – 1904) where Filadelfo and so many great artists of the past had studied. It was if we were, in that Studio Simi, in a special little bubble of time that had stood still since the century before.
A rare snap of Nerina smiling as she was unaware of the photo being taken.

 With the memory of those 2 years with the Signorina now fading and my new home in Pietrasanta, Italy, a town famous for its tradition of sculpture, I decided to attempt her portrait in clay. I wanted to show her as a strong, but old lady, still focused on passing on her knowledge. She continued to receive students with work, teaching up until about 2 months before her death at 97 years.
Finding photographic references was a problem because it was well known that she did not like to have her photo taken. But thanks to many ex-students who had sneaked a few snaps I managed to collect enough to give me the basic measurements for a profile and a frontal view.
Gradually the clay started to take on form, then turned into a portrait, and with a lot of hard work, achieved a likeness and then became the Signorina. That last step gave me a terrific feedback. I felt I had recreated her. What a sense of power! 

Part of the sculpture in being worked in clay
 From then on the sculpture took on a presence which I found myself treating as if it was really her there. I would say “Buongiorno Signorina” to her as I took the plastic sheeting off the wet clay in the morning, and excused myself to her as I sprayed her with water before replacing the plastic in the evening and saying “Buonanotte Signorina”! One day as I was working with my nose very close to her raised arm, in order to work details on the face, I was shocked by my surprise that my nose did not smell the scent of a person and instead smelt very damp clay. That showed me how much my emotions had become involved.

Working on the clay model in the autumn of 2019, all my reference photos pinned on display behind.
Besides passing on the techniques of drawing and painting, often with a sly sense of humour, The Signorina gave deeper lessons that have supported me all my life; lessons of perseverance, humility, and openness to learning that make achieving new standards possible. She was not only a very experienced and able teacher but a painter too and nobly dedicated to her long life of art, which in her time was extraordinary for a woman.

This sculpture represents my thanks and my tribute to honour her memory.

The process of transforming the clay into bronze is a complicated one and I have described it on my website (
Thanks to THE MARIANI FOUNDRY for the foundry work on the bronze, and to Studio BURATTI, for the clay studio.

Saturday 23 May 2020

Sprigionare la luce nella prigionia del Lockdown


UNLOCKING THE LIGHT IN LOCKDOWN  (Per leggere questo blog in l'inglese vai al blog precedente)

8 Maggio 2020

Le opere qui presenti sono state realizzate ad olio, su tela o su tavola.

 Nel 10 Marzo 2020, a causa della pandemia Covid 19, un draconiano confinamento e’ stato imposto all’Italia. Ho realizzato che mi si sarebbe presentata una preziosa opportunità per rallentare, riconsiderare le cose e dar tempo alla concentrazione.

Vorrei condividere con voi alcuni dei miei pensieri ed osservazioni, e presentarvi alcune delle mie opere realizzate durante le scorse sette settimane di lockdown.

Le radiazioni del sole sono la fonte responsabile per l’energia vitale sulla terra. Sono nella vita di ciascuno di noi e ci coinvolgono a livello emotivo e psicologico. Ogni giorno la luce solare e’ leggermente diversa dal giorno precedente mentre le stagioni si susseguono instancabilmente. Mi sono focalizzata nell’attento studio della luce solare e come essa interagisce con l’aria, l’acqua e con gli oggetti, invece che esclusivamente con gli oggetti- in realtà la luce solare e’ una tema che mi ha sempre affascinato.

L’Italia e’ un paese dove vi sono molte ore di luce, ed ho la fortuna di vivere a Pietrasanta, una cittadina a Nord di Pisa, in Toscana, localizzata a circa un terzo dello stivale Italiano sulla costa nord-ovest dell’Italia, di fronte alla Corsica. Gli inverni sono miti e le estati lunghe e molto calde.
Questa fertile estensione di pianura fra montagne e mare possiede una luce speciale - o così dicono gli scultori di marmo della zona. Essi ne sanno qualcosa data la loro nota esperienza con il famoso ‘bianco di Carrara’ sin dai tempi degli antichi Romani.

Vivo sul quarto piano di un condominio attorniato da case con giardino. Alle mie spalle si ergono i piedi delle Alpi Apuane. Dinnanzi a me, attraverso il sipario di case, industrie e campi, la mia vista si estende ad ovest sul Mar Mediterraneo. Il sole sorge dietro le montagne, proiettando una lunga ombra sulla pianura che si accorcia via via che il sole percorre il sua arcata giornaliera' prima di tramontare sul mare. (Vedi quadro n. 13, Tramonto di Luna su Massa, Moonset over Massa).
Durante la transizione dall’Inverno alla Primavera, pare che il tramonto scivoli verso Nord sull’orizzonte segnando la fine di ogni giorno, e dalla meta’ dell’estate il tramonto avverrà dietro le montagne costiere del Nord.

Disegno che illustra la posizione del mio condominio in relazione alle montagne, il mare e la rotazione quotidiana del sole.

Il periodo del lockdown mi ha concesso la libertà di scegliere il mio orario lavorativo, così che io potessi studiare gli effetti della luce solare in specifici momenti del giorno. Fortunatamente, dalla seconda metà di Marzo, all’inizio di Aprile, il tempo ha retto per molti giorni di fila.
E’ sempre una sfida creare l’illusione della luce utilizzando solo pigmenti ad olio su tela. Scegliere il momento giusto ed amministrarlo correttamente è una sfida ancor più grande. Alcuni pittori scelgono di dipingere a mezzogiorno perché le ombre cambiano meno in confronto al mattino e  la sera. Altri preferiscono cogliere i colori fugaci e bellissimi dei primi cieli all’alba o della fine del giorno, quando vi è rimasta una finestra di 10-15 minuti prima che tutto cambi e svanisca completamente.
Dato che il sole è in perenne movimento, qualsiasi disegno di un’ombra proiettata diverrà incorretto dopo mezz’ora dall’inizio del disegno. Ma non solo la sua ombra cambia, ma ne cambia la luminosità del suo colore e la sua tonalità. Una scena con intriganti confronti di colore e luci riflesse può perdere il proprio incanto dopo pochi istanti. Così è importante essere consapevoli del momento che si vuole immortalare e della sua durata.

Una parola sulla fotografia. Certamente la macchina fotografica è uno strumento utile per fissare un attimo istantaneamente, ma l’immagine è percepita attraverso una lente che ne distorce prospettiva e disegno. Non solo, la fotocamera che registra digitalmente, interpreta la scena manipolandone l’intensità dei colori ed esagerandone il contrasto. Quando questi fatti sono presi in considerazione, la macchina fotografica può essere di aiuto per ricordare le condizioni scelte del momento, ma non potranno mai sostituire l’osservazione diretta dell’occhio umano.
Il pittore Impressionista Francese Claude Monet, fu capace di dipingere varie scene che probabilmente durarono solo 20 minuti, avendo preparato una tela antecedentemente per ogni momento scelto, lavorava su molteplici opere in vari momenti distinti.
Ripeteva questo sistema per giorni, pregando che il meteo non subisse forti alterazioni, e così facendo trovò le ore necessarie per completare le sue opere.
E’ per questo che i pittori nordici amano migrare al sud per dipingere, per beneficiare della costanza del clima Mediterraneo.


Balcone - 21 x 18cm

1. Durante la prima settimana del lockdown, penso di essermi sentita, come tutti, prigioniera della mia stessa casa. Questo primo lavoro rappresenta le paure di questo periodo iniziale. E’ stato dipinto al mattino e ritrae l’angolo del mio balconcino che con la sua ringhiera suggerisce la barriera dal mondo esterno. La vera sfida di questa opera è stata nello scoprire il valore e colore del muro giallo, in ombra. Come qualcuno che abbia dipinto limoni ben sa, far sembrare il giallo, scuro, evitando di creare un piastriccio fangoso è difficile, dato che il colore (il valore) giallo è per natura più leggero in tonalità di ogni altro colore. Appena altri pigmenti sono aggiunti, il giallo non sembra più giallo!
Quando ci siamo iniziati a rendere conto che il lockdown sarebbe continuato per molte settimane, ho trovato un modo alternativo per ‘ritrovarmi’. Mai più avrei trascorso il tempo riordinando e ripulendo instancabilmente quel piccolo rifugio del mio appartamento e dedicato la mia attenzione all’ultimo resoconto sulle morti del coronavirus, avrei invece fatto tesoro del tempo regolatomi. Fissando degli obbiettivi raggiungibili e adottando una routine quotidiana, sono riuscita a ridurre i livelli di ansietà che percepivo allora. Mi sono prefissata l’obbiettivo di dipingere il tramonto ogni sera, in modo da comprendere come sarei stata capace di ritrarne la bellezza con i miei colori ad olio.

2. Tramonto con nebbia - 15 x 28cm

2. Questo quadro è stato dipinto durante il dodicesimo giorno del lockdown Italiano e vi era una considerevole nebbia dove il sole aveva deciso di nascondersi prima di raggiungere l’orizzonte. Non so se la nebbia fosse stata causa di particelle inquinanti o un’eccesso d’umidità, rimane il fatto che i giorni a seguire sarebbero stati incredibili proprio per il contrario: la loro limpidezza.

3. A destra del sole - 29 x 19cm

3. Il cielo è limpido in questo veloce schizzo (a differenza di qualche piccola nuvoletta vicino all’orizzonte), ed il sole è appena tramontato a sinistra della cornice. I lampioni si accendono. In questo istante i colori iniziano a scurire ed a cambiare rapidamente le loro relazioni attraverso l’arcobaleno della tavolozza. L’area di transizione fra la luce calda emanata da dietro l’orizzonte e il blu profondo del cielo presente più in alto, spesso e' di  un verde delicato che io amo chiamare ‘verde uovo d’anatra’.

4. Dieci minuti prima del tramonto - 21 x 21cm

4. Puo’ essere che il ‘verde uovo d’anatra’ sia più facilmente visibile in questo dipinto del sole, che si trova a 10 minuti dal suo tramonto. Ho dovuto mantenere i valori del cielo più scuri di ciò che erano in verità, per fare in modo di potervi includere la palla del sole. Data la forza della luce presente si è creata un’aura diradata intorno al sole, una corona di colore, un colore riscaldato dalla sua fonte luminosa.

5.Dalla Collina - 18 x 25cm

5. Qui la corona di luce è visibile ancora da un punto di vista (immaginario) più alto, fra le colline dietro casa mia. Approssimativamente, a 40 minuti dal tramonto con un’atmosfera non inquinata e libera dalle tracce degli aeroplani.

 6. Falò altramonto - 18 x 27cm

6. Qui ho deciso di raffigurare quel prezioso momento quando l’ultimo globo rosso di sole si riduce ad un puntino di luce e si spegne. Qualcuno aveva acceso un falò.

7. Tramonto su Porto Venere - 18 x 27cm

7. Cinque giorni più tardi il sole stava tramontando su Porto Venere ed il porto di La Spezia, con una piccola nuvola. Molto ‘verde uovo d’anatra’ presente.

8. Due ore prima del tramonto - 30 x 20cm

8. L’effetto a corona della luce del sole, non mi ha mai disinteressato, specialmente essendo omonimo del nome del virus. Ne ho iniziato ad individuare ovunque. Le ‘corone’ sono anche note come i bagliori della lente. Una corona appare dovunque ci sia una forte fonte di luce, e può avvenire anche intorno a luce riflessa, basta che la fonte sia forte abbastanza. Questo schizzo è stato realizzato due ore prima del tramonto, ed il bagliore della luce solare riflessa dal mare è propagato sul paesaggio in lontananza.


9. Il treno delle 7:30 - 20 x 30cm

9. Ogni sera, intorno alle 7:30, un treno passeggeri passava attraverso il mio campo visivo ed i vagoni riflettevano dei piccoli luccichii di luce. La corona di bagliore era particolarmente forte a quell’ora e questi luccichii potenti erano ovunque: sulle grondaie, sulle paraboliche e sulle foglie lucenti delle magnolie, le cui cime potevo appena includere nel primo piano della composizione.

10. Studio dei primi Verdi della Primavera - 12 x 25cm

10. Nella terza settimana di Aprile, gli alberi stavano crescendo i loro delicati germogli primaverili. Senza il traffico, il canto degli uccelli era molto piacevole mentre dipingevo. Un rapido schizzo mostra come i pioppi in quel momento sembrassero i più trasparenti fra tutti gli alberi (?).

11. I Verdi Primaverili - 21 x 21cm

11. I primi verdi primaverili e paraboliche luccicanti.

12. Studio di Tramonto lunare - 13 x 18cm

12. Intorno all’8 di Aprile vi è stata una ‘supermoon’ (super-luna), più grande e più luminosa data la sua vicinanza alla terra, e facilmente visibile dati i cieli non inquinati e senza nuvole di pioggia. Mi sono svegliata presto per vederla e non ho resistito al cercare di ritrarne i veli perlacei presenti nel cielo all’ alba. Via via che la luna tramontava il sole si ergeva, e l’ombra delle montagne alle mie spalle si accorciavano a vista d’occhio sulla pianura sottostante. Il giorno seguente, con l’aiuto del contrasto fra luce ed ombra ed uno schizzo del giorno antecedente ho creato un piccolo dipinto, dove mi sono permessa con ‘licenza d’artista’ di sostituire la luna alla città di Massa.


13. Tramonto lunare su Massa - 21 x 21cm

13. Tramonto lunare su Massa.

 14. Raggi solari su Porto Venere - 9 x 29cm

14. Raggi solari su Porto Venere

15. Passeggiata col cane - 21 x 21cm

15. Durante il lockdown potevo osservare dall’alto le attività dei proprietari dei giardini circostanti. Vedevo mariti occupati a tagliare le siepi e falciare i prati d’erba che erano cresciuti con l’aumento del caldo. Alla fine delle sette settimane, le siepi dei giardini, insieme alle architetture, proiettavano lunghe ombre strette e geometriche. I cani non riuscivano a credere alla fortuna di uscire così spesso, essendo l’unica scusa accettabile per fare uscire anche i loro padroni. Era importante per me immortalare con precisione l’ora di questo dipinto mattutino (10:45), dato che le ombre proiettate erano in costante movimento.

16. Ritratto con Corona - 17.5 x 17.5cm

16. La mia ossessione con il lockdown e con tutto ciò che riguarda il Corona, fu gratificata il 16 di Aprile con una vera e propria corona di sole. La leggera presenza di foschia nell’atmosfera può causare un’effeto visibile, ad arcobaleno circolare, intorno al sole. Può avvenire anche attorno alla luna, con le giuste condizioni. Così, bloccando sole con la mia testa, sono stata capace di scattare una foto ‘con corona’, dandomi una sicuramente immeritata, ma divertente aureola luminosa!
Su un piano più profondo, dipingere questo ritratto mi ha resa cosciente della brontolante incertezza psicologica su ciò che c’è in serbo per la specie umana.

Durante questo periodo di intensa ricerca e di libertà nell’eseguire una routine quotidiana che ruotasse intorno ad i miei strambi orari lavorativi, ho imparato moltissimo. Molto di ciò che ho imparato è stato come capire l’illusione della luce, sperimentare ed applicare delle idee con dei pigmenti. Tutto ciò mi ha dato un prezioso feedback ed uno stimolo per lavori avvenire.
Anche se il mio adorato contatto diretto con la natura selvaggia è stato limitato, la mia fede nelle proprietà curative dell’apprezzamento del bello è stata ancora una volta riconfermata. 

Friday 8 May 2020


All the paintings shown are in oil, either on canvas or panel
On March 10th, thanks to the Covid 19 pandemic, a draconian lockdown was imposed on Italy. I realised that this presented a precious opportunity to slow down, assess values and focus.  
I would like to share some of my thoughts and observations, and present some of my paintings done in the last 7 weeks of lockdown. 
The radiation from the sun is the earth’s source of energy. It is in everyone’s lives and strongly affects our moods. Every day the sunlight is a little different from the day before as the seasons roll by. I have focused on studying the sun’s light and how it interacts with air, water and objects, rather than the objects themselves – in reality it’s a subject that has always fascinated me.
Italy is a country where there are many hours of sunshine, and I am fortunate to live in Pietrasanta, North of Pisa, Tuscany, about a third of the way down “the boot” of Italy and on the West coast facing towards the island of Corsica. The winters are mild and the summers hot and long. This North-South strip of fertile flatland between the mountains and the sea has a particularly special light - so I’ve heard marble carvers say. They should know, they’ve been carving the white Carrara marble from these mountains since Roman times. 
I live on the top 4th floor of a block of flats that is surrounded by low houses with gardens. Behind me rise the foothills of the Apuan Alps. In front, across the plain of houses, industry and fields, my view stretches westward to the Mediterranean Sea. The sun rises behind the mountains, casting a long shadow across the plain, which shortens as the sun moves overhead following its daily path to setting over the sea. ( See painting no.13, Moonset over Massa). 
As winter turns to Spring the sun appears to slide to a different setting point Northwards on the horizon marking the end of each day, and by mid summer it sets behind the Northen Italian coastal mountains. 

Drawing showing the position of the block of flats in relation to the mountains, sea and daily roation of the sun.
 The lockdown period allowed me a liberty to choose my working times so that I could study the effects of sunlight at specific moments of the day. Fortunately the weather was clear for many days in a row during the second half of March and into April. 
It is always a challenge to create the illusion of light using only oil pigments on canvas. Selecting the right time and managing it is an even greater challenge. Some painters like to paint around midday because the shadows change less at that time of day than at either end of the day. Others like to capture the very fleeting and beautiful sky colours at dawn or the end of the day when there is really only a 10 to 15 minute window of time before it all changes completely. 
Since the sun is always moving any drawing started including a cast shadow will not be accurate after half an hour. But not only the shadow shapes change, but also all the values of the colour and tone will be altered. A scene that had a certain attractive relationships of colours and reflected lights can just lose it’s visual buzz after 30 minutes. So it is important to know when the moment that you want to record happens and know how long it lasts.
A word here about photography. Of course the camera is a great tool to fix a moment in time, but the image is seen through a lens that strongly distorts the drawing and perspective. Further, the digitally-recording camera interprets the scene, inevitably distorting the intensity of colours and exaggerating the black and white balance. When these facts are taken into account the camera is a useful additional tool to help remember the conditions at the chosen time slot, but in no way does it replace observation by eye. 
Claude Monet, the French impressionist painter managed to paint many scenes that probably only lasted 20 mins, by having a canvas ready for each time slot he selected, often working on many different paintings over hours. He would repeat this for days, praying the weather did not change, and so managed to put in all the hours necessary to finish the canvas. This is the reason why northern painters like to come south to paint, benefitting from the more constant Mediterranean climate.
1. BALCONY  -  21 x 18cm

1. In the first week of lockdown, I think like everyone I felt a prisoner in my own home. This first painting represents the fears in that initial period. It is painted in the morning and shows the corner of my little balcony with the railings creating a barrier to the outside world beyond. The real challenge in this painting was to find the value and colour of the yellow wall in shadow, As anyone who has painted lemons knows, making yellow look dark without making a muddy mess is very tricky since the colour ( hue) of yellow is, by its nature lighter in tone than any other colour. As soon as other pigments are added yellow often no longer looks yellow!
When we all started to realise that the lockdown would continue for many weeks, I felt a different way of being had to be found. No longer would I endlessly clean and organise the safe little refuge of my flat and devote all my attention to following the latest tally of coronavirus deaths, instead I would value this gift of time. 
Setting a goal that was achievable and adopting a daily routine all helped reduce the level of anxiety I was feeling then. I set myself the task of painting the sunset every evening in order to understand how I could capture some of that beauty with my oil paints.
2. SUNSET WITH HAZE - 15 x 28cm

2. This was actually painted on the 12th day of the Italian Lockdown and there existed a considerable haze which the sun slid behind before actually reaching the horizon. Whether the haze was due to polluting particles that evening or extra moisture I could not judge, but the days that followed were remarkable for the clarity of the air.
3. TO THE RIGHT OF THE SUN -  29 x19cm  
  3. The sky is limpid in this rapid sketch (apart from some little clouds near the horizon), and the sun has set just to the left of the picture frame. The street lamps are turning on. At this time the sky colours start to darken and rapidly change their relationships going through the rainbow palette. The transition area between the warm light emanating from behind the horizon and the deep blue of the upper sky often presents a delicate green which I like to call “duck-egg green”.
4. Perhaps the duck-egg green is more easily seen in this painting of the sun about 10 minutes from sunset where I had to keep the values of the sky darker than they actually were so that I could paint in the ball of the sun. Due to the strength of the sunlight there was a halo of scattered light around the sun, a colour corona, and it is warm in colours since it is reflecting the light source.
5. FROM THE HILL - 18 x 25cm
5. Here the corona is visible again from a higher (imaginary) viewpoint in the hills behind my house. Probably about 40 minutes from sunset with an atmosphere exceptionally pollution-free and void of the usual plane vapour trails.

6. BONFIRE AT SUNSET - 18 x 27cm
  6. Here I chose to depict that precious moment when the last red orb of sun reduces to a pinpoint of light and is extinguished. Someone had lit an evening bonfire.
 7. Five days later the sun was setting over Porto Venere, and the bay of La Spezia, with a little cloud. Much duck-egg green here.
8. The corona effect started to interest me not least because it is the virus’s namesake. I was seeing them everywhere. They are sometimes called lens flare. A corona appears wherever there is a strong source of light, and can be around reflected light too so long as it is strong. This sketch was made about 2 hours before sundown and the glare from the sunshine reflecting off the sea created a warm glow on the distant landscape.
9.  THE 7:30 TRAIN - 20 x 30
  9. At around 7:30 every evening a passenger train passed through my field of vision and the carriages reflected glints of sunlight. The corona glow was particularly strong at that hour and little glints of strong lights were everywhere, on the gutterings, the aerials and the shiny-leaved magnolia tree, the top of which I could just include in the near foreground.
10. In the third week of April the trees were growing their delicate spring foliage. Without the noise of traffic the bird song was so lovely to enjoy while I painted. A very quick sketch shows that the poplars in that moment seem to be the most transparent of all the trees .
11. SPRING GREENS - 21 x 21cm
 11. The first spring greens and glinting aerials.
12.  MOONSET STUDY - 13 x 18cm
 12. Around the 8th of April there was a supermoon, larger and brighter due to its nearness to the earth, and easily visible due to the particle-free skies and no rain clouds. I got up early to check it out and couldn’t resist trying to capture the layers of pearlescent colours in the dawn sky. As the moon set the sun rose, and the shadow of the mountains behind me shortened over the plain below. I used this shadow/light contrast and the previous day’s sketch to make a small painting the next day, where I took “artist’s licence” and replaced the moon above the town of Massa.
13. MOONSET OVER MASSA - 21 x 21cm
13. Moonset over Massa.

14. Sun’s rays over Porto Venere.

15. DOG WALK - 21 x 21cm
 15. During lockdown I could watch from above the activities of the owners of the surrounding gardens. Husbands were out trimming hedges and mowing lawns which had sprouted untidily with the warmer weather. By the end of seven weeks the garden hedges were casting tight geometrical shadows along with the architecture. Dogs could not believe their luck with so many walks because this was one of the few permitted ways to leave the home.  It was important  to accurately pin down the time of this morning painting (10:45am), since the cast shadows were moving all the time.
16.  PORTRAIT WITH SUN'S CORONA  - 17.5 Xx17.5cm
 16. My lockdown obsession with all things corona, was gratified on the 16th April by a real sun corona. The slight haze in the atmosphere caused this circular rainbow to be visible around the sun. It can happen around the moon too when the conditions are right. So by blocking the sun with my head I was able to take a photo of the corona, giving me a surely undeserved, but fun halo! 
On a deeper level, painting the portrait made me aware of my rumbling psychological uncertainty about what may lie ahead for the human species. 
In this period of intense focus and with the freedom to stick to a daily routine organised solely around my quirky working times, I have learnt much. Most of which has been about understanding the illusion of light and to experiment and apply ideas in pigments, all which has given me valuable feedback and stimulus for future work.
Although my beloved direct contact with wild nature was curtailed, my faith in the healing and nourishing quality of the appreciation of all things beautiful was once again confirmed.



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