San Giorgio dei Greci in Venice Italy

This is my latest watercolor painting of Venice it features the leaning tower of San Giorgio dei Greci which means “Saint George of the Greeks.” It is a Greek Orthodox Cathedral. I never get tired of painting scenes of Venice, the atmosphere, sense of history, and myriad of textures and earth colors, all say paint me! Watercolor is particularly suited to painting these atmospheric scenes.

The painting is based on a photo I took a few years ago while holidaying in Venice. You can see that it was taken on quite a bright day. For my painting I altered the sky to give the scene more mood. I also decided not to put in the blue striped poles on the bottom right had side as they were too prominent.

San Giorgio dei Greci watercolor painting

Leaning tower of San Giorgio dei Greci
Leaning tower of San Giorgio dei Greci watercolor painting by Joe Cartwright

Reference photo for my painting

San Giorgio dei Greci and Venice Canal
San Giorgio dei Greci and Venice Canal reference photo

How to draw this Venetian canal scene

Drawing a scene like this, where buildings are not parallel to one another as the canal varies in width can be a challenge. Also some of the buildings lean one way or the other. The trick is not to draw them with a single vanishing point but have the lines that converge on a vanishing region rather than a single point. You can see this in the image below. I have marked eye level as just above the bridge height. On a flat straight road with building fronts parallel to the roadway, all the lines moving away from the viewer such as window lines, would converge on a single point, know as the vanishing point, somewhere on eye level. However all such lines in this scene converge, not at a single point, but in a general region.

Drawing irregular Venice Canal vanishing points
Drawing irregular Venice Canal vanishing points

As long as these key lines converge in the same general area the perspective in your drawing should look OK. Another way to look at this is that each building will generally have its own vanishing point, as in typical perspective scene, however the vanishing point will not necessarily be the same for all buildings an structures.

Watercolor painting of Bells of St Mark’s Campanile

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