This watercolor painting of bells, specifically the Bells of St Mark’s Campanile, the  the Bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica, in Venice, Italy, was completed by my class last week. It was a subject they had not done before and I thought it would give them some good practice with drawing curved shapes. It also allowed me to discuss the subject of negative space drawing as many of the positive shapes were really defined by painting or drawing the shapes between them.

The reference photo I used was one I took in 2010 when I visited Venice for an extended painting holiday. I liked the abstract pattern of  light formed by the window openings contrasting with the dark shapes above. It was also something not many people take the time to look at when they go up to the top of the tower. The view from up there is wonderful but I took the time to have a good look inside as well! One never knows when a watercolor painting subject will present itself.

Bells of St Mark's Campanile in Venice. The Campanile is the Bell Tower of St Mark's Basilica

Bells of St Mark’s Campanile in Venice. The Campanile is the Bell Tower of St Mark’s Basilica.

After completing a loose drawing of the scene I began my painting with a wash of varying strength mixes of burnt sienna, cobalt blue for the timber and iron parts of this painting. The Bell color was primarily watercolor mixes of burnt sienna and cobalt turquoise. The columns were a light grey made with cobalt blue and a little burnt sienna with lots of water.

I wanted to capture the feeling of the energy of these big bells and their complicated timber supports. Consequently I was not trying for photo realism in the painting, especially in the timer and iron support structure. It would have taken too long to achieve and I like to paint my watercolors quickly. I find that the more detail I try to put into a painting the less emotional connection I have with it. My greatest pleasure when painting is to see the watercolor paints flow on my paper and mix in a semi uncontrolled fashion. I find this very exciting. Everyone has a direction they like their watercolor paintings to go towards and this is mine.

After the initial watercolor under painting had thoroughly dried I painted the details concentrating on the tonal pattern of lights and darks in the scene.

Here is the finished watercolor painting. At some point I will do a full demonstration painting article on this subject. In the meantime if you have some questions please let me know by leaving a comment below.

Watercolor painting  of Bells in tower of St Mark’s Basilica, Venice Italy

Watercolor paintng of Bell Tower of St Mark's Basilica in Venice by Joe Cartwright

Watercolor paintng of Bell Tower of St Mark’s Basilica in Venice by Joe Cartwright