Posted by: Julie Duell | September 24, 2008




Hello & Welcome!

Two artists tripping the world together like “recycled teenagers” – this was a dream come true in 2007 for Tony and I – & especially for me, since I had never been overseas before beyond Australia & N.Z. We spent a wonderful time in Ireland visiting family – then caught a ferry to Fishguard in Wales, train to London and from there on across the Chunnel to join the Eurail in a loop around Europe, staying in Paris, Torino, Florence, Venice, Zurich, Frankfurt, Brussells and London before flying home via Hong Kong.

My partner, Tony and I both loved Ireland (next Post) and Venice best of all and in Venice like countless others,  we fell in love with the picturesque canals reflecting age textured buildings…

the elegant Gondolas handled so ably by the skillful Gondoliers…

 Leisurely pedestrian friendly streets (no cars!) full of aged buildings and history…

 Countless exotic shops full of colourful masks and Venetian glassware…

and of course, afternoon GELATOS!

In VENICE the sounds were different to everywhere else we visited in Europe.  Without the noise and pollution of cars, instead the busy boat traffic conversed through a varied language of muffled toots and horns – from deep authoritative blasts of large liners…

(Above: The “Norwegan Jewel”)

 to high pitched repetitive pip-pips of small vessels – all merging with the swish of water flowing in their wake…

Long balmy evenings saw families emerge from afternoon siestas to dine ‘el fresco’ at the numerous restaurants – the children able to play safely without the dangers of road traffic… though of course if you lived there, all children would need to be taught to swim as early as possible with so many waterways honeycombing the city!

Even bicycles were fairly rare, no doubt due to the number of steps involved in crossing the numerous canal bridges in every shape and size imaginable…

It also greatly surprised us that in a city existing so much at salt-water sea level (sometimes below!) green parks with avenues of huge long established trees formed part of the scene…

Another surprising feature was the somewhat alarming lean on many of the buildings & towers!  We were told that some of the buildings require flotation to combat the sinking!

Naturally there were countless artists displaying their work for the tourists and people the world over would be familiar with many of the images portrayed…

As Tony and I wandered the less ‘touristy’ back streets and narrow lanes of Venice soaking up the atmosphere, we became more and more entranced by the textures of the buildings and hypnotic reflections in the canals – also of course the wonderful shapes of the gondolas, boats & barges.  Literally every corner we turned was “paintable”! It was overwhelming and our cameras and sketch books worked overtime!

I made several attempts at capturing these impressions in paint, but found it difficult to “break new ground” in rendering an individual approach – since these subjects have been painted so often by so many artists throughout history! 

Also, our photographs were so wonderful they were a hard act to follow! For example here are a couple of reflection shots I took that really stand best as photos!  I wouldn’t attempt to paint them because they are so beautiful just as they are – although I did enjoy enhancing them with Photoshop!

Still, I will share with you here my few painting attempts. Tony did rough sketches but hasn’t developed them yet.

First I did a very quick study to begin to “get in the mood” & tune in to the amazing perspective of the canals. which lend themselves to tall paintings. Getting the angles is tricky so I used my “clock method” (pretending that each line begins with the angle created by the hand of a clock – so I ask myself “what time is that angle?”) This method is fully described in the post on perspective. 

My next attempt featured mainly the reflections that fascinated us so much…

Then finally, I tried a favourite semi-abstract approach of mine – bending the lines and playing with the shapes. This at least gave me an individual approach!

   Here is the reference photo I took to work from…

Finally here is my painting of the tiny lane where our apartment was located.  It looked different every day as various coloured clothing was hung out to dry! Incidentally, although in a very old building, our apartment was newly refurbished and very comfortable.

Below is a photo of Tony leaving our apartment…so you can see where the painting is taken from…

Tony has his shopping bag ready for the wonderful fresh fruit and vegetables on a barge in the nearby canal…

So that’s about it from me on Venice.  We feel so privileged to have paid a visit there.  It was absolutely nothing like our preconceptions and was far more captivating and beautiful…also very clean.  The salt water was clear, there was plenty of healthy green weed growing on the pylons and we saw absolutely no rubbish floating in the water.  

We would advise anyone visiting however to explore the back streets away from the crowded tourist areas and our only criticism throughout Italy was the lack of public seating available – so wear old clothes and get used to sitting in the gutter or on any available step!  Hard surfaces (often cobbled) make for tired legs that do need a rest now and again!


Have you any memories or thoughts to share about Venice?  We’d love to hear.

Best wishes to all,

Julie & Tony


  1. What a wonderful feast of beauty, earthyness, and generosity of spirit went through me, when I looked into your site.

    Sincere thanks

    • Thank you Trish for your lovely feedback. If you have any suggestions to improve the site please feel free. Julie

  2. It is art related which is why I mentioned it. First a bit of news which I think ties in with a happy memory of yours. “Closes the boat, this is the news that holding forth these days in Venice. La Barca è un negozio di frutta e verdura, che, come già sanno tutti gli innamorati di Venezia, si trova vicino al Ponte dei Pugni , nei pressi di Campo San Barnaba . The boat is a shop selling fruit and vegetables, which, as already know all the lovers of Venice, is located near the Bridge of Fists , near Campo San Barnaba . Chiude la Barca e con essa sparisce un altro pezzo di Venezia, quella vera. Closes the boat disappears and with it another piece of Venice, the real one.”

    About six months after I got out of the Navy I went through the Detroit (Michigan) Institute of Art. The last room with a centre entrance and exit was very long and narrow. Stepping in I glanced around and my gaze riveted on the last one on the right. A very shallow angle so you had no idea even of the subject. Yet, impossibly, I knew it.

    Moving in front of it my jaw dropped and I was severely shaken. I was right. The view of St. Marks Square from the Grand Canal was more than familiar. I had stood at the same angle and altitude. The difference was the painting was done from a greater distance. I didn’t make note of the artist and didn’t think to get a postcard sized print before I left.

    About 28 years later I had just started to dabble in paint and remembered the work. I emailed the Detroit Institute of Art’s Curator about it with as much as I remembered.

    Several weeks later she replied. That area contained art works on loan. She suggested Canaletto and referenced two specific tomes via ISBN, page numbers and plate numbers. Records did not reference title.

    I borrowed the library tomes and nothing came close. A few years later I came across a general public book on Canaletto’s works and bought it. Nothing matched, although some were within ‘Cricket Stadium’ range.

    Tourist Venice photos in the ‘net, several times generated nothing. Neither did a website on Canaletto’s works. Later on the tourist site I started seeing happenstance photos which were close. Then someone got it from the right angle and altitude but much further away. The poster said it was the closest he/she could come to taking a photo from the same point as Canaletto. The person then posted a photo of the work in the museum along with the title.

    It was the work I remembered! I didn’t remember anything about ships and I was astonished I was able to recognize the location from the distance and the shallow angle much less through the ships cluster.

    The work is on the site. It might not have been before or it was a matter of the mists of time. Seeing the photo brought it all fresh. The work is; The Molo From The Bacino Di San Marco, Venice 1747-50. Some references did have it from 1732 or 1735 or something else.

    I’ve got to update my website.


    • Very interesting. Thank you. J

  3. Perhaps, sometime, I’ll again visit. Of course, this time it would be in civilian status. What’s amusing is twenty years after I had been there I came across on the ‘net a copy of the public transportation system, and other data, in English. If only I had that information then!

    If I do again visit it will be in the April time frame to avoid the crowds.

    About a year later, after my enlistment ended, an incident relating to Venice occurred which wasn’t resolved until about six months ago. If there’s interest I’ll relate it.

    • Hello again – I hope you do get to go to Venice again – April does sound a good time. Since this is an art blog, please only include your incident if it is art related. OK? Best wishes.

  4. I’ve been there-twice. Total time about a month courtesy of “Uncle Sam’s Canoe Club”. There wasn’t much time to explore as we were always working. A few of us did manage to get to the US army base about 60 miles away via train. I came back with a small box filled with books-reading material! Buying English language language books in the local economy is expensive.

    Please bounce me an email.

    • Thanks for your comment. It’s a pity you didn’t have a bit more time to explore. We wouild have liked to have spent more time there. Many are concerned for the future of Venice, especially now with rising sea levels – though I believe much is being done via floatation methods to save buildings. It was a bit alarming to see church spires leaning over noticeably here and there! We were there when Pavarotti died in 2007.

  5. I agree “virtualnexus” – Venice is certainly in the category of ‘sensory overload’. Every corner you turn is ‘paintable’ and yet it has been painted so much by artists over so many years – how does one record one’s true personal impressions without following in the footsteps of others? We were very lucky to have sunshine there – I have seen others’ photos and they are all grey. Glad you like the blog. Please let me know when yours is set up. Julie

  6. What can I say – stunning photos and wonderful informative – and colourful blog! Especially liked the slide tutorial on this post. I’m in the process of setting up an art blog on WP.

    I’ve known a number of artists comment they needed to be in Venice for a while before they could get their bearings to paint – sensory overload, perhaps!?

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