Monday, 17 May 2010

The Blues in Sorrento!

View from balcony of room, 4th floor Hotel Royal Sorrento, Vesuvius in background.

Actually I need to explain myself. After taking considerable trouble to decide what painting kit to take with me to Sorrento I committed an unpardonable sin. When waiting for our baggage at Naples airport I was suddenly struck by a horrible realization. I had forgotten to bring my main painting box and had only a mishmash of supplementary paints! What a disaster! My wife says it shows I am losing it so it's double doses of Ginkgo Biloba from now on.

I had everything else but what could I do with the paints I had ? My supplementary paintbox, occasionally brought into play, contains Greengold (PY129), Indian Yellow (PY153), Permanent Magenta (PV23), Opera Rose (PR122 plus a dye), Permanent Rose (PV19), Avignon Orange (PR206), Indanthrene Blue (PB60), Hookers Green (PG7/PO49) and Ivory Black (PBk9). The odd tubes I put in the bag were two or three versions of Naples Yellow (Reddish etc), Ultramarine Pink (PR259) and Quinacridone Rust (PO48). The latter were intended for the colours of buildings in Italy. I only brought the supplementary box as an afterthought.

I first tried an experimental painting on the terrace of the hotel, which is on the cliff top facing the sea. The main problem as I saw it was the lack of a decent set of primary colours - no blue apart from Indanthrene blue, no primary yellow either. When It came to the sky I was scuppered so the hunt began for an art shop to supplement what I had. The holiday representative tried to be helpful but the end result was NOTHING! The only paints available in Sorrento were  two solitary boxes of Cotmans priced at 34 and 74 euros.  No sale.
We arrived late on Friday and had opted for a trip to Amalfi on Monday. The thought occured might there be something available in Amalfi, although as a smaller town than Sorrento I didn't hold out much hope. However on arrival I explained my predicament to the young lady who was the guide for the day, and although she wasn't optimistic directed me to a shop specializing in various stationery and paper products. After  a good look around I discovered a small area where there were some brushes, and on further inspection found a small tray underneath holding some Maimeri half pans. That was the good news. The bad news was the selection of colours was minimal but I managed to find Cyan Blue (PB15:3) Permanent Green (PGY/PY175) and  Permanent Yellow Lemon (PY175). Thinking I might find something else further up the main street which winds upwards off we went. To cut a long story short no luck! But I did discover a small shop, the shops are all small, selling paper of various sorts which seemed to include watercolour paper. This was confirmed and some small and medium sized sheets were produced. by the lady serving. I chose the 16" x 12" largest size and on enquiring whether it was hand-made, a stupid question really, the lady immediately said "Yes, by me at my factory over there" waving her hand in an easterly direction. I asked for 5 sheets (ten euros) but got six for the same price. The paper has a beautiful soft feel although quite light, possibly 90lbs. That doesn't bother me because I do some paintings on 90lb Fabriano and my style of trying for a finish first time, with no big washes, means I can use lighter paper, although 140lb is the staple. The paper is expensive compared to the usual mould-made but I was on holiday so.... I discovered, should have known, that Amalfi is famous for paper of different sorts and the  address and name  for this supplier is: Arte e Carta, di Rita di Cavaliere, via P.Capuano, 30 84011 Amalfi (Sa). She even has an e-mail address:

If you visit Amalfi, and almost everybody who goes to the Sorrento area does, then call in the shop. What first attracted me were the lovely small drawings and paintings in the window, obviously done on the paper she produces.

How did I get on with the painting using this unfamiliar hotchpotch of paints? Not terribly well although I did some painting from the balcony shown above and a couple more from the terrace down below. I was tempted to post one of them but decided against. It was a useful exercise trying to paint with an unfamiliar set but not one I wish to repeat so I definately won't make the same mistake again. I did take many photos at the old fishing port called the Marina Grande. Lots of boats and things. Hope to do something with them in due course.

One final glitch (almost). When I packed my art materials the tripod and mdf board (with attached Ken Bromley bracket) plus paper went into  one of our cases. My backpack held everything else including my Walkstool. On going through the checking area at Naples airport the bag was x-rayed then pulled out and inspected. A young lady said the Walkstool couldn't go on the plane and would have to go back via luggage  at the entrance of the airport, some distance away. This was a potential nightmare but fortunately another young lady appeared and waved us through. It was nearly inspected again when a holdup occured at the boarding gate and two officials started pulling people out of the queue, pulling their hand luggage apart. Luckily not mine, especially after the incident over the Walkstool. I'm all for airport security but the Walkstool in its bag is only about 12" long and weighs eighteen ounces. In future in the case it goes.


Unknown said...

I think you talked yourself into a lack of confidence - I'd probably have done the same. It's a pity you didn't post anything, maybe you can be tempted, because it's often the ones we're less than satisfied with that produce the most interesting comments from readers.

One thing that a lot of painters do is to set themselves the task of making pictures with a limited palette to improve their colour mixing, in fact I know one artist who does a blind dip into his box of tubes and limits himself to the first three tubes that emerge. Whilst I've done a bit of limited palette work with oils I've never gone the whole hog with watercolours.

Aren't airports a nightmare these days?

Obviously a holiday steeped in incident.

Peter Ward said...

Actually we had a very good holiday Mick, splendid hotel with very good food and excellent weather. As far as limited palettes go I'm not into mixing a great deal and really follow the Charles Reid/Judi Whitton method of minimal mixing and mixing on the paper. I've tried other routes but this is the one I'm now firmly on. In addition there are such a range of wonderful colours available that restricting yourself in this way seems (to me at least) a bit `hairshirt'. Each to his own I say. I'll photograph the ones I did at Sorrento and see If I can risk posting one!

Sorrento sightseeing said...

I think You had a great time there. I have never been to Sorrento, but now I am willing to have a trip to Italy.

Peter Ward said...

Sorrento is well worth a visit. Avoid Capri though! Just a tourist trap. Thanks for visiting.

Zvonimir said...

Dear Peter,
Speaking of Amalfi paper you have tried, how did you like it?
Can you compare it to some other paper(s) if the memory of using it is still fresh?
Thank you kindly,