Pat Fiorello - Art Elevates Life

Art & Inspiration from professional artist and instructor Pat Fiorello. Pat is known for her romantic landscape, garden and floral paintings in oil and watercolor. Her paintings often depict beautiful places like Italy and France. Pat teaches painting workshops in the U.S., Caribbean and Europe. She is passionate about inspiring others to include art in their life. Whether creating it or simply appreciating and enjoying it, there are so many ways that art elevates life!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Watercolor: Painting a landscape from multiple reference photo's

Tuscan Memories
12 x 16 Watercolor Painting
by Pat Fiorello

I did the painting above as a demonstration in my landscape painting class this week. Part of the purpose of the demonstration was to show students techniques for painting a landscape and the sequencing of what comes first etc..  But also I wanted to show  how to go beyond sticking to painting from a single photo and how to plan and design a painting using multiple photo's.

Initial reference photo

I liked this one not only because of the memories associated with it from one of my early trips to Tuscany, but also because I liked the chunk of light buildings, clustered in an interesting shape surrounded by the dark trees. However the foreground left a bit to be desired. so I went to other photo's of that same area to see what other elements I could include.

 I found some Scotch broom wildflowers that are all over Tuscany and thought might make a good lead in to the painting and also an opportunity to introduce some more vivid color

Flower reference
Then I  thought it might be nice to include some vineyards for directional purposes and to be more attractive than the dirt in the original reference photo foreground . The vineyards are of course authentic to Tuscany so it would be plausible that there were some vineyards in this scene.

Reference photo for suggestion of vineyards

 Finally I put the elements together in a very simple value sketch with 3 values that reminded me of my light areas- sky and architecture, my dark areas; the trees, and then everything else was pretty much in between. I used Sepia and did it in watercolor. I find if I use a pencil I want to get too detailed, so I prefer to use a brush or big markers for my value sketches. In fact I think I'll start calling them value plans, because sketch conjures up a lot more drawing and detail than is needed at this point. Note I also sized my value plan to be proportionate to the final painting. I knew I was going to do the demo on a 12 x 16 block of watercolor paper, so my plan was 1/2 that size 6 x 8.

With my value plan and photo's available, I completed the demo of Tuscany Memories above.  It was a good warm up for me too as I'll be teaching a workshop in Tuscany in a few weeks.

simple value sketch- 3 values


  1. Okay, i have absolutely no experience in painting, I did paint a few times but they were not really good, and most of them are fashion illustrations.

    I would love to start painting landscape as I recently began to miss some countries I've been to.
    Do you think a beginner which has totally should start with painting landscape?
    Is it a tough subject? Or should i start with something like fruits? But that's boring :(
    Landscape designer virginia

    1. Kenzie, It is easier to start with simple objects like fruit under a single light source so you can learn about how light and shadow wrap around form, but there's no reason why you can't also learn to do a simple landscape. I teach a class in Atlanta "Art for Non-Artists" for absolute beginners and in one day students learn basic wc techniques and we do a step by step landscape to see how to put the pieces together. So it is possible to start with landscapes- just keep it simple- work light to dark, big shapes to small and that should keep it easy. Not the only way, but one that works pretty well. Good luck and have fun!