Whites & Darks

I was lucky enough to have a few days in Venice last year, which was a real feast for the eyes. Since returning I’ve been occasionally turning over in my mind how to make a picture from one of our (many) photos. So many of the scenes are iconic and have been done to death by other artists. Finding something a little original is definitely a challenge.

However, today I dug out a photo of a little residential street, where the white and coloured washing was strung between the apartments to dry in the warm sunshine. The big draw was the contrast between the bright light on the painted surfaces and the cool shadows. I was initially tempted to use paint, but in the end coloured pencils won me over, in combination with an A4 black paper background.

Venice Washing Colour Pencil

It’s been a little while since I drew in coloured pencils, and I really enjoyed this very much.

Acrylics in Earnest

After feeling a bit lost this morning, wanting to do a picture but not knowing what, I decided I needed to try something a bit different. Having invested in a multipack of some decent Reeves acrylics for the Bigger Picture project, and being something of a skinflint, I resolved to have a real stab at seeing what the acrylics could do for me.

I was looking at this as an exercise in trying out the paint and experimenting with colour, rather than concentrating on form and sketching as I often do, so I turned to our photo album for inspiration. Painting from photos isn’t something I do very much, but I admit freely that it can be a relief and a pleasure to paint something which just holds still, and where the light doesn’t change. I came across a picture I took in Venice harbour (ooh, get me!) which I snapped because, between the overly ostentatious yacht moored there and the harbour wall, there was a spectacularly gorgeous section of green water,  contrasting attractively with the worn chains and weathered wood. I thought this would give me the colour-focus I was looking for.

Venice water acrylicI prepared (ably assisted by my husband) a piece of hardboard, as recommended by Mary on her blog, Oil Pastels by Mary. The board measures around 30cm square – I quite like a square format. I chose a large, square blending brush to begin with and, as I’m quite lazy, this was what I ended up using right the way through this picture. Maybe not the best tool for the entire job, but there you go. Sometimes you just get caught up in the moment and forget that other brushes are available…

Sorting out the order of play was really important I think. I know that you can apply acrylics in any order as they’re opaque, so I decided to work from the majority colours down to the more fiddly details last. I started with the bright green water, moving on to the darks, followed by the wooden post. The chains were last to be added.  The acrylics did dry quite fast, but not as rapidly as they had done on the mountboard I’d used previously, so there was some wriggle room with adding colour, which was part of the pleasure today.

Because you know what? This was really enjoyable to do. I tried to pick up several colours on the brush at once without mixing on the palette, and this can give some really great results (and some less so). I love the streaks of colour which emerge – and I’m pretty sure this won’t be my last acrylic picture.

Back to the Balcony

Balcony view watercolour 2The last day in Venice, and the last chance to make a sketch of the view from the balcony, this time facing a different direction, and not a canal to be seen. I rather like how the crane in the distance contrasts with the traditional facade of the church, and suggests a more practical, working city than the romantic version we often see in tourist images.

I tried to remember what I’d learned in the previous watercolour about making terracotta colours, and also to put into practice the rules of perspective, which I always find challenging. Once again, the black fineliner helped no end to sharpen up the details.

Venice, Very Nice Indeed

So, I’m back from a short trip to Italy where we spent three days with good friends visiting the Biennale modern art exhibition in Venice. It was impressive in its diversity, and well worth the time we spent there. For a taster of the sublime (and sometimes ridiculous), world art event that is the Venice Biennale, click here.

Balcony view watercolour 1We were staying in the newer (and cheaper) part of Venice, which is still very pretty and interesting, and fortunately not as packed with tourists as the most historic areas. I was happy that I managed to get a couple of sketches done during our stay; this impression was done out on the balcony one quiet evening, with a glass of red wine waiting for me inside. A good incentive to get on with the picture!

I only packed a small watercolour sketchbook (10 x 7 ins) and so, as often happens, the black fineliner saved me by injecting details to bring the picture to life.