Venice Value Studies and Painting


Today started with a couple of value studies of Venice scenes. Went in first with the mid values and simplified the shapes as much as possible. I was first intending to do the first one as a full painting but in the end plumped for the second one.

It was a trial. I simplified things further by doing the whole thing in grayscale to avoid getting distracted by color and was very glad I did.

First the drawing. Sketchier than I would usually do but took care to keep the verticals and horizontals as they should be.


Next the mid values in large shapes. I was getting a little discouraged at this point. The main buildings weren’t hanging together as well as I’d like and disaster was looming. However, I ploughed on and after the darks and some lighter value detail on the building I grabbed it back from the jaws of defeat.

Not one of my best but not too bad either. A little too sketchy in places but maybe worth another go.

The Elusive Zbukvic Touch

Every now and again I torture myself and try and get some insight into Joseph Zbukvic’s technique. I’ve had an inspirational printout of one of his wonderful Venice paintings on my wall for a while and I foolishly wondered if I could learn anything from trying a copy.

Now I wouldn’t recommend this if your ego is not built on rock solid foundations. I’ve tried before with varying degrees of success and didn’t really come away with any lessons learned. This time I made a little headway.

Firstly his values are surprisingly close together. The scene above (his is the bottom one of course) looks as though it has very dramatic value changes but actually they’re almost all about 3 steps apart. The sky especially near the horizon darkens significantly and helps to tie everything together.

Secondly his ‘colors’ are REALLY close to gray. Low chroma in other words. I got the Munsell chips out and had to go to my ‘nearly neutrals’ section to even come close to matching them. It’s really easy to slop far too much bright color in there even when you think you haven’t.

Once I’d got to grips with both those things I didn’t fair too badly. I till could have compressed my value range even more but on the whole this was one of my better attempts.

Here is a preliminary sketch I did before the bigger one.

This was definitely worth doing. Gave me confidence that at least my values were in the right ballpark.

Venice – Chiesa di Santa Maria della Visitazione

I’ve been neglecting painting recently and when I have got the brushes out it’s been birds, birds, birds.    
So I have a new plan.
After a quick rummage through the photo library over at I now have  a folder full of Venice photos ready to be used.   This way I don’t have to agonize over what to paint.    I’m also painting a lot larger than I have been of late.   This one is on 16×20 which gives me a bit  more elbow room but also means I have to concentrate and plan a bit more.
So – more ambitious,  non-feathered paintings is the course of action.
This one wasn’t a total success but not a total failure either.   The drawing was fun as always and the painting worked in some places and not in others.   Not bad for a first effort in a while.
Oh – and the tower leans in real life.   

Day 27 – Venice at dusk

Quickly dashed off as I’m trying to catch up.

Day 22 of 30 in 30 – Venice again

Well.  All I can say is that I’m being ambitious in these Venice paintings and sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t.

Oh well. Day 18 of 30 in 30

Not really what I was hoping for.

The Fishmarket, Venice – Day 17 of 30 in 30

This was a struggle although in the end wasn’t a complete disaster.  It’s a complicated (and famous) view and very hard to do it justice.

The drawing – I was intending to do the whole page but ran out of subject so cropped off with tape.
This was proving very tricky even at this stage.   Only half way through and fingers crossed I don’t screw it up.  The foreground boats were a complete disaster and I abandonded them completely.

Santa Maria, Venice – Day 10 of 30 in 30

Not much time for commentary tonight but it looks like I’m embarking on a Venice series.