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’, 10×8, 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’, 10×8, 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.