Day 3- Castellini and Villa Casa Nova di Chianti- Painting En Plein Air

Our destination today was Castellini…a small town about 15 minutes by car from our home base.  We took 3 vans and went to town to find nice locations to paint.  I brought my good camera, a fold up stool, a backpack with a pad of Arches 140 and a small watercolor travel pad, my travel palette of watercolors, brushes, a water bottle, sun bonnet, jacket, a collapsible water holder, paper towels, sepia marker, a pencil, a black marker, and an eraser. It all fit in my rolling backpack and I definitely had everything I needed.

I took a few photos at first and tried to find a place that called to me to be painted.  This one was quiet, and I had a vantage point that was in the shade without anyone around.  I decided to try my hand at this.  At first I did a sketch in my mini sketch book with an elegant writer marker.  I then took a brush with water and made the lines bleed.  This is a really fun value foundation for painting.  I then added my watercolors for a little more color and the paper got a bit mushy. Once nice thing that happened is that a bunch of other students joined me in my little corner and we had fun painting together.  The lady who lives there also was kind enough to hang a shirt on the line for me.  I was going to have to  make up some laundry so that was very fortunate. Later on, the lines above were filled with laundry too.  I guess that’s what happens on sunny days in Tuscany!

When my paper began to get mushy I decided to try it again on better paper.  When will I learn?!  NEVER paint on anything but good paper!!!  How many times have I said it to my students???  And here I am proving my point by making the same mistake yet again.  Getting out my 140 Arches, I sat on my little tripod stool and drew it again.  I began with pencil and then once I had my perspective lines in place, I quickly went to my sepia marker.  I’m finding that I like the quality of the marks it makes much better when I’m drawing on location.  The lines are better and the value is perfect.  It’s a Staedler sepia marker and I just love it.  Karlyn Holman is a fan, and I am too.
My back side was getting tired and the light was changing so I got up to walk around a little bit.  I happened on a little boy and an elderly man…perhaps his grandpa.  The little boy was blowing bubbles and it was charming.  When I went back to my drawing, I thought it might be nice to put them into the scene.  The student next to me had injected a dog into the little scene, and I thought that a little life might be a good idea in my street scene.  So I drew the little Bubble boy and his elderly friend.  My sketch was complete and it was time for lunch.

After lunch we forced ourselves to enjoy a gelato and then caught a ride back to home base.  Once there, I needed a little coffee to offset the wine I had at lunch, because a few of us were going on a hike to a local villa on the next hill.

The place is owned by Dutch owners and we are able to visit without disturbing anyone.  The hike to get there was about 1/2 hr, and I got the chance to spend more time with Karlyn’s co-teacher Bonnie.  She is great and really a good painter and teacher. I enjoyed getting to spend more time with her today.  Once we got there, I took photos, and decided to hang back to try and make a sketch of the great architecture and cool roof elements.  I was able to climb up on a small hill and perch there to get a better perspective on the roof elements.  I loved the weathervane and the chimnies…they were what interested me and from up on this little mound of rocks and grass I could see them better.

When you compare the next 2 photos I think you’ll see why I like to use my zoom lens.  These two photos are the same sight.  I zoom in on the first and don’t use a zoom on the second.  The composition gets flattened when you use a zoom, and I think it lends itself to a more pleasant perspective.  What do you think?

I preferred the first composition so that is what I based my drawing on.  I began by placing my favorite element…the weathervane…in the upper left sweet spot of my drawing.  Then I went from there.  The weathervane ended up being a little larger than life…but I didn’t mind that.  I got the drawing in by finding my perspective lines and big shapes in pencil, but quickly went to the Staedler pen again as soon as I felt I could.  Given my experience this morning, I figured it was the best way to go fast.

Here’s the drawing without paint.  Karlyn is a big proponent of laying in shadows first.  The shadows were awesome at that point so I quickly mixed up some lavendars and blues and tried to capture them.  The light was changing but I tried to move as quickly as I could and went from light, to medium to dark shadows. I knew that I was taking longer than expected and didn’t want to miss the critique for the end of the day’s work, so I called it a day and started to pack.  

This is what my painting looked like with a few shadow forms in place.  

The final blessing of the day was a silent visit from my little friend below.  It was magical to share that moment with such a sweet creature. No words were exchanged….none were needed.   I think he is an Italian fawn.  He came at just the right moment and I was able to take a few photos.  A sweet ending to a fabulous day of painting en plein aire!

The day’s final blessing!

Author Rebecca Zdybel

Artist, Instructor, Art-Travel Instructor - Spread Light, Share Love, DO Art! Rebecca Z Artist (Rebecca Zdybel) is an artist and instructor in Myrtle Beach, SC. She blogs and teaches locally and internationally. Sign up for her blog, classes, workshops, art travel tours, or see her work at

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