Painting in Venice

03 Apr 2015

San Giacomo di Rialto, rainy afternoon oil on board 12 by 10 ins 2015-001

I wanted to post something about the Chelsea Art Society trip to Venice. I enjoyed the 12 days painting as much as any painting I’ve ever done. You cannot easily paint an original painting in Venice, or find much new to say, but at the same time it is almost impossible not to want to paint practically everything you look at. I first visited Venice in 1989 and in the intensity of the work rate we Chelsea artists set ourselves from day one I think I have finally outdone the sort of consistently long days Dave Rycroft and I achieved as teenagers back then! There was much competitive talk about the clinking of easels at dawn- on some days the house was empty by sunrise at 6.20am.

Santa Maria delle salute and Grand Canal, oil on board 12 by 10 ins-001

I’m not yet especially pleased with any individual picture, although many have potential, but having started 40 paintings in 12 days I am certainly pleased to have gone up through the gears. There is something about Venice itself, a quality of the light which is quite physical and which makes it hard to tear yourself away. March weather makes life tricky- at dawn you need every layer you can lay your hands on, fingerless gloves, long johns, the lot. But we mainly enjoyed fine weather, looking south across the sparkle of the lagoon, or finding quiet corners on bridges and backwaters to make studies in various media, oil in my case, with others working in oil, tempera and pastel.

Being in a group encouraged greater productivity too- even on wet days when one might have preferred to stay at home. Nobody wants to be last out or first back in, but then nobody especially wants to paint in the rain whilst roosting pigeons add their very own texture from above, and it takes a bit of friendly rivalry to force one out into the cold. As it happens I have had previous experience of the San Marco pigeon, working on a watercolour in 89, and at least with oils it can be scraped off. All part of the rich tapestry of plein air work.

The evenings were enlivened with large quantities of the local shops’ home-made white wine, and some culinary masterpieces. We can thoroughly recommend the air b and b apartment we stayed in near Miracoli.

We hope to show a handful of pieces each from our trip at the Chelsea Art Society open exhibition in June at Chelsea Town Hall.