Tag Archives: Venice

Canal in Venice

Quiet morning, Venice by frank eber 2010 Another one from Venice! This one was done early in the morning with that typical haze lingering in the air. I tried to paint as quickly as possible, letting the paints bleed.  I feel I overworked the water a bit. It’s so easy to be overwhelmed when painting on location. There are so many things you see at once and the longer you look, the more you start seeing. But like the master painter Joseph Zbukvic says, “You mustn’t put it all in”! I have also found that you cannot put in all the colors your eyes perceive. There’s so much to learn still…

Speaking of the Mr. Z: I am very happy to announce that I signed up for his workshop at Fallbrook, California next spring. I can hardly wait and I am sure it will be an eye-opener in many ways.

My next post will be from CA as I am heading home!

Santa Maria della Salute

Santa Maria della Salute, by frank eberThis view was probably painted a million times before.  The Basilica of Saint Mary of Health, as it is called in English, was built after a particularly devastating outbreak of the plague in 1630. It quickly became an emblematic  part of the skyline of Venice and inspired many big-name artists like Canaletto, Turner, Sargent and Guardi.

As always, it was important for me to get the mood of the place and I tried not to put any details into the building itself. Just the shapes and letting the paint do the work. The only details are the boats and the poles on the left hand side, but I tried to keep those vague as well.

This one is pretty small, only about 9″ x 11″.

St. Mark’s Plaza

St. Mark's plaza by frank eberThis was one of those lucky shots! I definitely got my tones and values right without fiddling around too much. I am no longer in Venice, but all my work is based on sketches I did on location there. This piece was done with a very limited palette, mostly just ultrablue, magenta and the siennas. I tried to capture the energy of the place, the complete chaos: people moving about, street vendors, some pigeons. Speaking of pigeons: they seem to have gotten rid of lots of them.I remember being in Venice when I was a kid, there were so many pigeons everywhere you could hardly get away from them.

In the background you can see San Giorgio Maggiore,  a 16th century Benedictine church on the island of the same name.

It is true that there is a special light in Venice. It’s very soft and milky, perfect for watercolor! It was great fun to visit, I just wish I’d have had more time. I guess I’ll just have to come back again soon…

Sketching in Venice and Amsterdam

morning on the canal, by frank eberAt first glance both cities have  a lot in common. The canals, nice old buildings and beautiful bridges–that’s about it. Oh yeah, and maybe the funky smell and the claustrophobic feeling of being surrounded by water at all times.
The biggest difference to me is that you seriously run the risk of being run over by crazy cyclists when exploring Amsterdam. They are everywhere, all the time and for some reason, its *your* responsibility to watch out and get out of their way. Yep, ultra-annoying.
That won’t happen to you in Venice, the worst thing there are probably the crowds. If you plan on going there, spring or fall is a better choice than summer.
Having said that, both cities are awesome, even more so from an artists perspective. You could spend a year in both places and never run out of things to paint. I know one artist who wouldn’t even go to Venice because she thinks the place is so “over-painted”, meaning so many artists have painted there over the course of centuries…
I don’t care–I look for my own views of any place I go to, it doesn’t matter if there were a thousand people here before me.
The hardest thing for me to paint is the water. It’s a greenish blue, more blue than green with some turquoise in it, I think. (It doesn’t look right in the picture, btw.)  I am not sure I got it right just yet, it may take another few paintings. I plan on doing at least 15 or more, we’ll see what happens but there will be a series of both places.

I don’t know where my art is going at this point. It may not look that way but I am really struggling with things right now. I love working on location and my sketches usually come out nice, but then I try to do a studio piece from references and I just hate it! It seems I just can’t figure out how to work from photographs. I get tight, nothing flows and my brushstrokes look awkward. I just seem to do a lot better when I am in front of what I paint. Has anyone else ever experienced anything like this?

I’ll try to post more often once I have more internet access.

Traveling and sketching on location


I have been on the road quite a bit lately, painting in three different countries. Can you guess which ones? All these are done on location, in less than 40 minutes, and with only one paintbrush. They are pretty small, approximately 5″ x 8″.

I had a few interesting interruptions while painting:

An armored bank vehicle blocked my way about halfway into one painting. He actually moved the thing when I asked him, which was very nice, considering the gravity of his job. The same thing happened again later that day, this time with a delivery truck. I just decided to relocate. In a way those are great learning experiences and it teaches me to be extremely flexible and to stay calm no matter what happens.

Painting in Venice was a great experience. There were so many artists, I was always close to another painter.

Painting on location is by far the most rewarding, and a lot of times those small paintings have  more life in them than any of the studied studio pieces done from reference materials. The least I like to do is a color sketch if I plan a bigger piece later at home. It always seems to come out better. Sometimes I still like the sketch better afterwards! Maybe it’s because there’s no time to think and I am forced to get it done quickly, thereby creating a more spontaneous looking painting? I’ve no idea…

More to come from Venice and Amsterdam!