I’m in Venice Italy for three months, starting just a week ago, and going all the way to the middle of April. As you can imagine, I’m in the city of water and old buildings, light and architecture, history and romance. And I’ve got my art supplies. You can read about the journey itself on our travel blog, here, but the artwork I’m doing is going to be posted here on this blog, and if you feel like purchasing any of the pieces I’m making while I’m here, you can do so on our Etsy site, here.
When I decided, back in August, that I wanted to spend a lot of time in Venice, I started preparing right away. First I made a whole lot of handmade paper, then sized and in some cases toned the paper for pastel. Then I made a bunch of pastels, and bought a bunch more pastels. And finally I packed them all up securely and brought them with me on the plane, along with my wife and three-year-old grandson. My wife found a great little apartment, and we moved in just last week. And we’ve been taking walks and accumulating photo references like mad – only a week, and we’ve got over a thousand photos already.
What interests me is the age of the city, and the non-tourist sights. I like brick walls, peeling stucco, crazy angles. The lagoon views are magnificent, of course, and the palazzi on the grand canal are palatial, and I’ll be painting all of them, but my exclamations of amazement come at the most prosaic moments – rounding a corner and seeing a canal full of boats and reflections, with laundry hanging right across the canal.
Before leaving for Venice, one of the preparations I made was to make a few paintings of scenes I found on Google street view (which cruises down the canals as well as the streets).
The first of these pastels, done on handmade paper (you can tell because of the ragged edges) I then mounted down on a board and framed, then painted in the frame to extend the image. It’s of the Rialto Bridge, which I have since seen and photographed from a number of angles, all of them including tourists, which are everywhere, even in the winter (one of the reasons I chose to come in the winter is the relative lack of tourists. But still…).
This second painting is likewise mounted on a board and framed. In this case, I did two pastels, of the lower and upper parts of the buildings, and left a nice gap in the painting for emphasis. You might notice all the women in the windows of the buildings. Traditionally, way in the past, women were relegated to private spaces, and hardly went outside at all. Which is one of the reasons the windows in Venice are so prominent.
This one I call the Gondolier of Death, and it features a self portrait, and a portrait of my grandson Avery next to me. The Gondolier is transporting a coffin, or rather a body, to Isola di San Michele, the burial ground. It’s a rather large painting, and I did it on board, rather than handmade paper.
This little gem is on handmade paper, and I framed it up to give to my friend Jack as a bon voyage painting, seeing as how he threw me a bon voyage party. Here’s looking at you, Jack.
At this point, still at home, I decided I might try some paintings on oval paper. My son Michael had made me an oval paper screen some months back, so I used it to quickly turn out several dozen sheets of oval paper, which I then toned and sized, and used a picture of the Salute church as the subject. The photo was pulled from street view, which I though was an excellent resource. We actually spent some time on street view before we came, trying to orient ourselves.
The second oval I did was rather more fancy. It’s also of the Salute, but I spent a little effort decorating the board that it is mounted onto, using sprayed lace.
And now, to the paintings actually done in Venice. Once we arrived, it wasn’t hard to select the first subject, because it’s the bridge to our own little island, where our rented house is. It’s a cute little bridge, and we cross it every day on the way to the shopping area to buy our groceries. There are only two bridges to get onto this island, and I’m quite fond of this one. Handmade paper, of course.
And I just finished this painting today, of the Salute again, but from the other side of the canal, rather than street view from a boat. I really love the poles sticking up everywhere along the river.
I hope you join me in my trip, and hope you like my pastels. I do, and I’m having a lot of fun making them.