Last night Susan and I watched the BBC 2 programme Shakespeare in Italy narrated by Francesco da Mosto. Part of the programme was set in Venice, a city which was Susan’s home for 5 years and a place which has been a content source of inspiration for my paintings of Italy collection. One of my favourite views is taken from the Accademia Bridge, looking at the Santa Marie della Salute. I’ve painted it several times on location and using the sketches, I have produced a number of studio watercolours which have included commissions. On one particular painting, I decided to photograph the painting of the Grand Canal, Venice in stages so that one can see the progression and development of the painting, from the initial pencil drawing through the sequence of washes, to the build up of detail.
After stretching a sheet of hand made Italian watercolour paper on to the drawing board, the first stage was to draw out the main elements of the composition with a B pencil. I like to paint a lot of the detail from observation with my brush, so there isn’t a huge amount of detail in the pencil drawing.
Next, I covered the whole sheet with a wash of clean water then ran in a gentle wash of Winsor and Newton Cadmium Lemon from about a third of the way from the top of the board. This helps to take away the starkness of the white and set the tone and mood for the rest of the painting.
One the yellow had dried I repeated the process of laying a wash of clean water except once it hit the architecture, I began to be more random with the wash leaving some of the paper untouched by water. I quickly ran in a wash of Rose Madder into the water but left some of the yellow showing through as pure yellow.
Before starting the sky, I masked off some of the detailed areas in the water like the poles and boats so that I wasn’t having to paint around them with the blue. I started off the sky with quite an intense wash of French Ultramarine and Manganese Blue, fading it out slightly as the sky came closer to the horizon and then painting around the architecture.
Once it had dried, I deepened the blue for the foreground part of the Grand Canal I then started on the buildings on the right hand side. The detailed photograph shows how some of the blue in the sky and water was used as shadow areas for the buildings.
I finished the right hand side before commencing on the left so that I could use slightly more stronger colours to give the impression of the left hand side being closer.
When I rubbed off the masking fluid, it meant that the colour underneath remained as a base for the poles and boats. Strong, dark refections on the left provided further depth to the painting and once I had added the smaller areas of detail to the architecture and boats, the painting was completed. I have two paintings of the Grand Canal, Venice available as limited edition prints available online or from my Studio and Gallery in Ponteland. I also have an original watercolour available of the Grand Canal, Venice which I painted using the same process described.