Since I loved painting in Italy so much and thought the subject matter was intriguing, I thought I’d do something big for the Festival of Arts this year in Laguna Beach, CA. Above is my main show piece “Italian Reds,” a 48” x 36” studio version of my original plein air work posted before.
This painting was completed over three days in mid June using my photo references in addition to the on-site work. I decided to handle the approach similarly to the way I painted it before, by painting the cypress, distant trees and hills first. I broke out the big brushes for this one to achieve the fresh, painterly feel I felt I conveyed in the original 12 x 9. Once I had the depth, I proceeded to the poppy fields working back to front. I kept the distant flowers as a mass and balanced the reds and green in a harmonious fashion to read as a segue from the foreground to background. Next was the main focus area. I wanted a feeling of power and punch without describing every flower, so I loosely painted in general areas of red where the groupings were to be featured. I then went back into the green stem areas and cut into the reds trying to develop interesting shapes as I proceeded. I added the darker shadows to the underside of the flowers next to complete the forms. The poppies at the very bottom of the canvas were kept very simple and in shadow to support what’s above them and not to distract. Next was developing the focal flowers further by punching in some darks, and adding more variety and nuances to the colors. I introduced a secondary eye-movement by adding in the violet flowers. Last was the sparkle of highlights in yellow and other bright dashes to catch your eye.
This piece came together surprisingly smooth, but I think since I had a successful study to begin with, it made the large work fall into place readily. It was fun to have a piece with so much bright color, plus it contrasted nicely with the deep atmosphere. Now I can sit back and breath easy it with a glass of wine in hand. And as most Italians will tell you in regards to their drink preferences, “the best whites are red.” Enjoy!