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A painting in progressFriday, March 10, 2006 by Steve Hill
Filed under: Italy Series
I have photographed the piece "Grape Harvest" (click to see finished piece) in various steps as I worked from sketches and photos taken during the fall grape harvest in Manarola, one of five villages in Italy's Cinque Terre. Because the terrain is so steep there, grapes are hand-picked and packed down the hill to the crushers, located in old buildings in the village.

The figure in this piece was carrying a large plastic bucket over his shoulder, supporting the weight with one arm cocked under and speed-walking down the streets to the crushers.

I suspect he was in a hurry to keep the production moving and the grapes at peak sugar levels (fresh) for wine making. This will give you an idea of how I work, first doing a complete value drawing(lights and darks), usually with vine charcoal, before adding any color to the piece.

Click on the images to see a larger view.



I try to think constantly about the light and how it affects colors and shadows by controlling the degrees of color intensity within each area.







Here, as I begin to add color to the drawing, is a critical juncture in the temperture and overall feeling of the scene, which was this beautiful fall day with sun washed reflections on the old buildings and this brawny Italian hussling through the streets with his grapes. Obviously, he made several trips per day from the vineyards above the village.




Cool colors have a tendency to set the stage for distance, as well as provide good contrast for the warmer tones, which were so important to this piece.







The strong foreground trees helped create a shadow pattern that added to the composition and helped to high-light the figure plus provide a temperture contrast for the warm-colored buildings and bright Mediterranean sky poking through from the background.







Catching the figure in mid-stride was also important to convey the sense of urgency to the harvest. I remember running after him to get enough photos to work from for this piece.


It's very easy to overwork a painting like this, as one thing leads to another during the process and colors can become muddied. I was fortunate to be able to stop at just the right time to prevent that from happening. I heard another artist jokingly say "The only way to finish a painting, is to shoot the artist." There's more truth to that than most of us would like to believe!

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