Italian Doorways, Infinite Vistas


Every time I go abroad I know to pack the tools of my trade: a block of watercolor paper, paints, brushes and a palette.  What I don’t know ahead of time is what I’m going to paint.  Well, I do know that skies will be a component.  They were in Tuscany in 2012, when a first-day visit to Lucca inspired me to surround images of skies with borders derived from inlaid stone pavements like the ones that graced the city’s Romanesque duomo.  And toward the end of my 2016 artist residency in northern India, I started composing roundels with skies encircled with filigree-like patterns based on traditional Aipen designs.  (See my ART A SEE post:

(Left) “Tuscan Sky 6,” watercolor, spring 2012, 13 1/2″ x 10 1/2″ (Right) “Sky Aipen III,” watercolor, March 7, 2016, 12″ round.

Last May’s adventure began with ten days in Rome. I began sketching with the idea of replicating the idea behind seven small watercolors done during a trip to visit my sister in Reno, NV.  There I sought out surviving motel signs from the 50s and 60s. I drew tops of those signs from a low angle so that most of the image was a sky.  Then I painted a sky.

Here is 8-Reno, watercolor, 7 Sept. 2012, 10 1/2” x 7 1/8”.

So instead of a border, an object penetrated the rectangle of the sky. With that idea in mind, I made three sketches in Rome, one of which depicted one of the angels that stand guard atop the railing on the Ponte S. Angelo, the bridge over the Tiber leading to Castel Sant’Angelo, formerly known as Hadrian’s Mausoleum. But I hesitated to paint the sky because 1) the sky stayed blue, 2) the contours of the statue were more irregular than the motel signs had been, and 3) the rectangle was, at 16” x 12”, significantly bigger than the Reno rectangles were.


I strongly doubt that I’ll ever paint those three Rome sketches if only because the whole point of sky paintings is to paint a sky on location.  I guess I could add a Baltimore sky, but that would violate the spirit of the series.

All photos, drawings and paintings © Scott Ponemone

Italian doorways, Infinite Vistas

On the 11th day, my husband Michael Frommeyer and I picked up a rental car and drove to Assisi, where we would spend three nights. This short visit was intended to make up for a disappointing visit in 1999.  Two years before an earthquake severely damaged to the upper church of the Basilica di San Francesco.  The upper church as closed as work was still underway repairing the beloved Cimabue and Giotto frescoes.

(Right) Assisi, watercolor, June 1999, 10 1/2” x 8 3/4″

While wondering the town I came upon a doorway (top, left) that I recognized instantly. I had painted it in plein air (right) in 1999. As you see, inside the doorway opening, I inserted a view of the town with a striped sky.  And just as instantly I realized that those magnificent stone portals that proudly proclaim the importance of the occupant would be my sky frames this trip.


But I decided not to do that doorway again. Instead I chose these two.

(Right) “Assisi (14 June 2017,)” watercolor, 14 3/8” x 9 3/4” (Left) “Assisi (14 Aug. 2017),” watercolor, 14 1/4” x 12”


Here are the two completed paintings.

This pair of skies is the exception to the rule.  Each painting includes a partial landscape, something I almost always reframed from doing. Please click on the video below.


Blame the exception on the view from the balcony off our Assisi apartment.  We just loved the light, the clouds and the swallows.  Had we the option, we would have stayed there longer just for those long, beautiful late afternoons and early evenings.

Instead we followed our itinerary and drove north to Padua, where we would stay for the rest of May. On the way we revisited Ravenna, which was a side trip during our 1999 Italian visit.  Fortunately Ravenna hadn’t suffered damage from the 1997 quake. We stopped off  because the outstanding Byzantine mosaics preserved there were well worth a second visit.

Padua afforded us a good base for day trips to Venice, Ferrara, Verona, Mantua, Vicenza, Travis and Trento, as well a several Palladian villas.


The following are the steps in creating each of the ten Italian Doorways paintings:

▫️ I photographed a doorway

▫️ Uploaded the photo and processed it in Photoshop on my laptop

▫️ Figured the scale of the doorway to fit watercolor paper measuring 20” x 14″

▫️ Drew the doorway opening and partially drew the stonework (mostly so I would remember which doorway went with which photo)

▫️ Painted the sky in Italy

▫️ Back home in Baltimore, I printed out photos of the chosen doorways (see image below)

▫️ Completed the drawing of the doorway

▫️ Painted the doorway.

The dates on the paintings record the day the doorways were finished.

Here are three examples of the state of the doorways watercolors after I returned to Baltimore and printed out the source material.

Above are the steps toward completing Padua, starting with the completed drawing of the doorway.  The finished painting is just below.

 Completed suite

Here is the complete ten-painting set of Italian Doorways, Infinite Vistas, starting with “Padua”:

“Padua,” watercolor, 22 Aug. 2017, 12 7/8” x 10 3/4” (A storm sat over Padua when we arrived.)

“Ravenna,” watercolor, 14 July 2017, 16 5/8” x 11″

“Vicenza,” watercolor, 27 July 2017, 13 1/8” x 12″

“Verona,” watercolor, 5 Sept. 2017, 14 1/4” x 11 3/4” (The last one completed because it had the most detail.)

“Cittadella,” watercolor, 3 July 2017, 16” x 13 1/8”

“Trento (13 June 2017),” watercolor, 14 7/8” x 9 7/8″

“Trento (30 Aug. 2017),“ watercolor, 14” x 9 3/4″

“Venice,” watercolor, 5 Aug. 2017, 12 3/4” x 10 1/2″

“Assisi (14 June 2017,)” watercolor, 14 3/8” x 9 3/4”

“Assisi (14 Aug. 2017),” watercolor, 14 1/4” x 12”


And here’s a view of the first nine to be completed.  (They were posted as they were finished, bottom row to top row.) The Verona painting was still at my easel. I guess I’ll have to look for a different arrangement to get all ten in view.


When you create a series, there’s always the question whether you have one painting with so many components or a set of individual paintings. What do you think?













  • Annina L. Wildermuth on Sep 11, 2017 Reply

    So happy to see your new paintings. I especially love the last single one from Venice. AND I also like the last last one with all of your paintings together, so it is a tough choice. Beautiful work!!!

    • scott on Sep 11, 2017 Reply

      Many thanks, Annina.

      How’s your own work coming along. Any examples to send me?


Leave Reply