Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Venice - Piazza San Marco

I recently returned from a fabuloso trip to Venice with a crew of painting pals. It's an incredible place and despite the fog, rain, floods and hoardes of tourists we all had a great time painting what has to be one of the most beautiful cities on the planet!

The roll call of plein air painters included Tim King, Haidee-Jo Summers, Valerie Pirlot, Karl Terry, David Bachman, Chris Daynes, Tony Dakin, Stuart Fullerton, Roy Connelly, Mike Richardson, Sidney Cardew, Eric (from Seville). I think that's everyone...hope I haven't left anyone off the list!

Venice is always a challenge and real test in terms of drawing, judging tones/values and many other painterly matters. I wanted to try and get to the 'essence' of the subjects and focus on the essentials without getting too distracted by fussy details. I remember discussing this with Tim on one of the Vaporetti, with Haidee and Valerie somewhat amused by our talk of the 'DEADLY fine line' between too much and too little detail. Dangerous sport this painting lark :)

Anyway, to the paintings. I've already started a larger studio version (18x24in) of the study below whilst it's all fresh in my mind! It's useful to have studied the facade of the Basilica a few times now and I can get a feel for the shapes. I love the way you get warm light reflecting up into the arches. The challenge will be to retain the energy of the location study in the studio piece....never easy! It was one of the few clearer days and as a result had a wider tonal range and more vibrant colours.

'Late morning, Piazza San Marco', oil on board, 10x13in (click images to enlarge)

Another one that seemed to work out OK was this wide view of St Mark's in the fog. A much more muted affair, I really tried hard to keep that 'envelope' of atmosphere in the murky haze. Although the fog obscures many views it can also add a unique atmosphere to certain subjects that you don't see very often. I'm tempted to have a go at a larger one of this one too....why not indeed!

'Fog, Piazza San Marco', oil on board, 7.5x15in
At certain points (and much to the amusment of onlookers) I couldn't see St Mark's at all!

I painted the one below of St Mark's on the back of a morning spent slaving over a couple of wipers. My excuse, me lud, being that I was rather wet and tired! Not sure about the figures but the rest seems to hold up. As with the fog, the tonal range seems to get compressed and I wanted to make use of the reflection of St Mark's in the Piazza. I enjoyed making use of the Campanile, which I avoided on the last trip. I found it quite jarring at first but it actually brings a nice note of colour and vertical structure, as do the flag poles.
'Rain, Piazza San Marco', oil on board, 10x13in
The light was quite flat but I quite liked the geometric arrangments and very subtle, pastel like shades in the next piece. Deceptively difficult in many ways...plenty of drawing whilst trying to retain some sense of colour harmony and depth. A enjoyable challenge nevertheless :)
'Side of St Mark's', 10x8, oil on board
This little study of the corner of St Mark's was done in the dense fog. Flirting dangerously with the 'veil of drabness', it was virtually monochromatic.
'Corner of St Mark's', 10x8, oil on board
David Bachman in the foggy Piazza

Mike Richardson, smiling for the tourists :)

Valerie, somwhere to be found amongst the flocks of tourists and pigeons!
Haidee-Jo, working on her masterpiece of the famous Florian's cafe!

Stuart Fullerton, happily painting, whatever the weather.

Detail of St Marks.

Entrance to St Marks, acqua alta.

And so the night shift begins for Roy Connelly and the other nocturne hunters.


  1. Sounds a fab trip! Great story board and seeing photos of everyone at work, Valerie attracting a good crowd, He-he! Well done with the paintings and good luck with enlargements, definitely worth doing. I just sold a 18"x 28" enlargement of Granada(Spain) yesterday :-)

  2. Thanks Andrew. I like to show some action shots when I get the chance as it gives a flavour of the whole experience. Well done on the sale of the large piece....I'm hoping for a similar result :)

  3. Wickid paintings Dave! And I must say a fantastic post on the whole trip! Lovely shots!

  4. Cheers Adebanji! I'll try and take a bit more video next time...and work on my production skills! Cracking portrait you've got on the ROI exhibition site (http://mallgalleries-shows.com/).

  5. David, there is a "deadly fine line" between an average blog post and good blog post, and this one is great! :-) I love how you managed to use the grey and foggy weather to play with cool and warm greys and put your poetic touch as usual. A lovely collection of St Marco you have, I can't wait to see your studio piece!

  6. Thanks Valerie....pleased to be on the right side of the deadly fine line this time round...no guarantees for the studio versions though! Look forward to seeing some of your work in more detail....from what I saw you've really got a quality collection from the trip :)

  7. It's been great having a good read of your Venice posts- thanks so much for reminding me about the deadly fine line! Sooo funny!
    All your paintings are just great, I really hope you can keep those same simple shapes representing the figures in the San Marco one in your studio version because they are perfect!
    Looking forward to seeing 'Venice 2012 the movie'. I hope it's a deadly serious documentary about the working conditions of plein air painters today ;-)

  8. Thanks Haidee! It's my main aim with the studio pieces....keeping that energy and spontaneity alive but the proof will be in the pudding I guess. The mystery movie is much anticipated, yes indeed....in safe hands too with Roy's expertise in all things video.