The hill in this painting is La Rocca, a pyramid-like, forested, ex-volcanic mound, which sits just to the west of Telese Terme, in Italy’s Campania region.
La Rocca is an incredible vision at certain times of the day and in specific weathers – often a cloud sits above it (as it does over Vesuvius), and is lit by sunlight in a dramatic way. The hill sits on the bottom of the valley and rises spectacularly.. in a way that gives it a certain authority – a specialness.
The painting began as an entirely different piece: it was a large sketch of a chayote (sechium edule), that I used as a demonstration piece for my very first Vacation With An Artist guest… you can see it in the background in the early-stage snapshot, above.
One morning, when I was on the way to market, there was a particularly striking vertical cloud sat on the hill, with another perched above it. I stopped the car and made these two wee sketches by the side of the road.
Making sketches directly from the landscape is something fairly new in my work – I especially like to gather images when I’m moving around, and see new views of hills and mountains here, or skyscapes-in-relation-to-the-land that move me. Sometimes they take a long time to come into paintings – I might come across an old sketch and suddenly have the additional feeling and knowledge from having seen the place over time – and am called to paint it.
Probably because the sketches were very small and lacking in detail, the painting didn’t move forward for some months: it sat quietly throughout the winter, at the back of my studio… like you see it here – more wintery-looking.
Then, inspired by having absorbed the view of the hill many other days, I launched into it again in early summer. The image began to speak in strongest reds and blues – echoing the sensations that seeing it just-after-dawn roused.
I have this sense of La Rocca hill being a symbol of earth power – a historic vent for nature, a pressure point and a place where the earth reaches up to meet the sky – there’s something mystical and potent about that, as there is about many other places in this region… The movement of the land – Italy being a seismic zone – meaning that nothing is so solid as it is in more stable landscapes. The metaphor and history, the poetry and stunning imagery of such a great lump of rock (the literal translation of ‘rocca’) – I love when those things all overlap and build up into a perfect storm… and a painting just cries out to be made.
I explain a little more, and show you some close-ups, in this video…
You’re most welcome to request hi-res photos of details shown in the video – just ask via the message box at the bottom of the page.
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Patreon is also where you can pay for a larger painting in monthly instalments (e.g. 10 x monthly payments) – contact me there (or below) to inquire – or if you’d like the painting reserved until you’re sure…Mention the name of the painting (La Rocca) in your message.
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