Carcassonne is a castle town in southwestern France. In the 1200s, the Pope and the king of France massacred millions of Frenchmen in this area in the Albigensian Crusade. Though the history is terrible, Carcassonne is beautiful and like a fairyland version of the Middle Ages.
This is one of two small paintings of Carcassonne. I was trying to capture the otherworldly, medieval look of the town in late February.
I had to visit the Acme supermarket early one winter morning to get eggs for the bed and breakfast. When I came out, I noticed the dark mass of Our Lady Star of the Sea across the parking lot. The pavement was wet and the dawn was dark and misty.
The scene reminded me of James McNeil Whistlers’ Nocturnes, especially those of the Houses of Parliament. He used to say he used his “special sauce” to get the liquid night effect. I guessed that his “special sauce” is glaze made of linseed oil and ultramarine blue – which is what I used.
The Pincio Park, or the gardens of the Villa Borghese, are the Rome equivalent of New York’s Central Park. We’d often sit in our favorite café in the park to write Rome Secrets or CityTravelBlog. This is the Temple of Diana in the park in the sun, with several picnickers on the lawn in the foreground in dappled shade.
I was interested in capturing the subject in bright light in the background, as it so often is in 18th and 19th century landscapes. The middle ground is alternately sunny and shaded, and the silhouetted tree in the foreground gives the composition depth and drama in a somewhat Japanese way. I often like a tree in the foreground as a way of dividing the canvas and giving drama to an otherwise calm landscape.
This is one of my favorite spots in Rome. For some reason Renaissance Popes loved obelisks. This one is supported by a statue of an elephant by Gianlorenzo Bernini. It is in front of a church called Santa Maria Sopra Minerva – Saint Mary on top of Minerva – because it was built on top of a temple to Minerva. The building behind the elephant is the back of the Pantheon – the temple to all the gods.
In this painting, the subject is already pretty dramatic. The color of the limestone elephant, the sandstone obelisk, the brick Pantheon and the basalt pavement were an exercise in modulating the colors to make them interesting, and tying them together to make the painting cohesive.
This is the view from the beach, fifty yards from Leith Hall in Cape May, at the foot of Ocean Street. The day was roiling with clouds and I wanted to capture the dramatic shapes. The clouds are unusually solid as they were that day.
Susan and I were just starting up the Garden State Parkway when I looked over at the wetlands/ back bay/ marsh that separates Wildwood and the mainland of New Jersey. The sky was beautiful and blue and the wetlands were that winter beige color; but there was one enormous cloud hanging over the earth, isolated and threatening.
My aim was to capture the enormous, flat landscape of the Cape May salt marshes and the strange single rain cloud. This is the largest painting that I’ve done in a few years.
Cape Island Creek flows from Cape May harbor between Cape May and West Cape May. In this painting I used the broken brushwork associated with the Impressionists. I think that it helped capture the sunlight, the breeze, and the ripples in the creek at the time.
The Palatine Hill is adjacent to the Roman Forum and is where the greats of ancient Rome built their palaces. The word palace actually comes from the name of the hill. Now, two thousand years later, it is a honeycomb of rooms in ruins with cave-like holes where the original outside walls were. A few rooms have survived and can be visited to see the wall paintings and the arrangements, but overall it is quite spooky.
The freestanding ruins and the medieval houses that were built out of the salvage are very vertical and very impressive. Susan is peeking over the wall, and a Chinese girl and her boyfriend with droopy trousers are in the foreground.