|5/18/17 ink, water-soluble colored pencils (The canal and bridge outside our Venice flat)|
I’m still ambivalent about Venice. On our visit in 2006,
we spent too few days trying to see too many museums and other wildly popular
attractions, so all I remember of it was fighting crowds, being lost and
feeling frustrated. We wanted this year’s visit to be different, and it
definitely was – except for San Marco Square, we avoided all high-traffic areas
– and yet I can’t say I wholeheartedly love Venice. A sinking city of canals where
boats serve as buses and stunning architecture is on every corner: It’s hard not
to be fascinated by such a place, and I was. And yet I wanted it to be easier
to appreciate all that old beauty and history. Maybe we just didn’t stay long
enough to get past the confusion of vaporetto routes and mazes of narrow streets.
Or maybe we were just getting tired at the end of our 18 days abroad.
One thing I did very much appreciate was staying in a flat in a quiet campo in the Dorsoduro neighborhood, which is off the
beaten tourist path. A nearby art college brought lots of young people carrying
portfolios back and forth through the campo, which gave the neighborhood a creative,
youthful energy. Literally a few steps from our flat was a tiny art supply shop
(I bought a small box of colored pencils there, just on principle)!
|5/17/17 Santa Maria Della Salute and Grand Canal from the Accademia Bridge|
|5/17/17 Basilica di San Marco|
One day we ventured out to San Marco Square, perhaps the
single-most crowded spot in Venice at any given moment. Of course, I was
ambivalent, but like an urban sketcher lemming, I was also driven to make the
iconic sketch. Compared to the mobs seen at high summer, we experienced only
the “shoulder” crowd – I actually found a space on the steps opposite Basilica
di San Marco.
This is the scene I was trying to see (sketched above):
This is the scene I saw most of the time:
Although I don’t regret going to San Marco and making the
sketch, it was a relief to retreat to “our” ‘hood, and that’s where we both
spent many happy hours sketching and photographing the quieter parts of Venice.
In particular, I enjoyed going around to the back sides of buildings where all
the wires and antennae were tucked away from the postcard views.
|5/16/17 Dorsoduro neighborhood|
|5/18/17 Dorsoduro neighborhood|
|5/16/17 "Our" campo in the Dorsoduro neighborhood|
A minor canal was just outside our flat, so I sketched it
twice from different angles. One of my fondest memories of Venice was sketching
the commuter traffic in and around the canal (sketch at top of post) in the cool, early-morning air,
the sky a brilliant blue, all within sight of our flat’s kitchen window (in
other words, not far enough away to get lost).
|5/16/17 The canal outside our flat|
|5/17/17 chimney pots in Dorsoduro|
In all the small towns we visited prior to Venice, my
landscape-format Stillman & Birn sketchbook spent most of its time opened
vertically to accommodate cliffside villages or narrow alley views. In Venice,
I could finally turn the book horizontally to make two panoramic sketches of
the Giudecca Canal with three iconic churches on the skyline. My intention was
to put the whole panorama on one sketchbook spread, drawing from west to east,
but halfway across my intended skyline, I ran out of space! I continued on a
second spread, covering as much of the skyline as I could see. Someday if I
ever learn to stitch images in Photoshop, I’ll put them together into a single
|5/18/17 Guidecca Canal, part 1|
|5/18/17 Guidecca Canal, part 2|
|5/17/17 gondolier passing under a bridge|
|5/17/17 glass harp busker near San Marco|
|Bridge of Sighs|
I can’t talk about Venice without mentioning Arcobaleno (“rainbow”),
the art supply shop. When I say “art supply shop,” I’m not talking about your
average Blick store! This shop’s main product is paint pigments for artists who
want to make and mix their own paints. I’d seen Internet photos of its window of
eye candy – a spectrum of powdered pigments – and I had to see it for myself! With
Joan’s help, I was able to find the shop
in the Dorsoduro neighborhood, where I bought a handmade leather pencil wrap
and a tube of colored pencils covered in hand-marbled paper. As I was making my
purchases, I asked the shopkeeper about the second Arcobaleno shop, which I
knew was somewhere near San Marco. She gave me directions, and I found that
one, too. (It’s slightly larger and offers crystals and other colorful, mystical
materials in addition to art supplies.)
|Eye candy at Arcobaleno|
|This is what I bought at the "candy" store: a leather pencil roll and a cylinder of|
colored pencils covered with hand-marbled paper.
Speaking of eye candy, Venice’s retail streets are
nothing but. I resisted buying, but I got more than my fill ogling the “candy”
with my camera.
|More Venice eye candy|
And speaking of sweets, I can’t end my last post about
Italy without mentioning gelato. I’ll spare you the daily Instagram postings of our flavors of the day and just give you a taste
here. At least I’m not showing you all the pizza, pasta and salads we also
consumed. All those steps we walked (Greg’s Fitbit hit 10,000 steps by mid-day
each day) and stairs we climbed (an average of 315 flights per week) had to be
fueled by something.
Stay tuned for my travel sketch kit review and my colored