Drawing and Illusion - Images of Venice
A Gondola on the Grand Canal
This week I visited Venice for 4 days with Mami and two friends, it was a surprise holiday arranged by Mami to celebrate my 60th birthday. The last time I was in Venice I was an 18 year old and on the threshold of adulthood, it was a flying visits as part of a camping tour round Europe. This time we stayed in a gorgeous hotel with marble staircases near the Rialto Bridge and just a short walk from St Mark's Square, we also had four full days to enjoy the luxuries of the city. The window from our room looked out onto a small courtyard with a most magnificent palm tree.
The Palm tree as seen from our bedroom window
Of course the first day was spent sightseeing in St Mark's where we took a long tour of the Doge's Palace. In the evening, whilst waiting for the others to join me at a restaurant, I sat by one of the narrow canals. My drawings are really reconstructions from memories, and it always takes a while to learn how to draw a new subject, I set out to work out how to draw the gondolas that were sliding silently through the water in front of me.
To one side I could see passers-by who would stop to watch the gliding gondolas passing underneath the bridges. This is little girl crossing the bridge with her mother
Mother and child crossing a bridge
and a woman in a straw hat
Tourist in a Straw Hat
This is a picture of a little Dutch girl and her mother who were part one of a large family; I only had time to draw two of them before they were all around me asking to look at my drawings.
A Young Belgium Girl with her Family
Often the Gondolas carry very precious cargo; couples with an expression of calmness and togetherness. The women, safe in the protective embrace of their menfolk, look with still eyes that caress in wonderment the architecture on the high walls of the houses that border the narrow waterways. I failed to capture this expression, perhaps this drawing comes closest.
Couple in a Gondola
the next day we set off early in a boat from the hotel to the lagoon island of Murano where they have many Venetian glass workshops, our hosts met us at the quay and escorted us to a workshop where master craftsmen were at work. I could not resist getting out my sketch book
Glassblowing on Murano
I had not made many sketches before we were moved on to their showrooms. They tempted us with their wares, our passion was briefly taken by a set of 8 wineglasses for £1000, and fortunately we had the presence of mind not to lose our heads. From Murano we took another boat to an island called Burano where they make Venetian lace. This was a really charming and peaceful village with a single canal running down it's center, and many friendly family restaurants which served us delicious Sea Bream.
Burano - a small Island where they make Venetian Lace
I drew whilst Mami toured the shops. This is a tourist sitting in an alleyway
Tourist on Burano
and this is Mami waiting for me to finish a drawing
Mami waiting for me to finish a Drawing
On the third day, whilst the others were visiting a gallery, I stood on top of a large wooden bridge that spanned the Grand Canal and looked across at a scene busy with boats, restaurants and magnificent architecture that lay beneath my feet. It is rare for me to draw scenes, but Venice is a city that pulses with serenity, the ancient Venetians always said their city was a lady. I love drawing beautiful ladies.
View Across the Grand Canal
At one end of the Bridge was a bag salesman called Pabu Amina, as tourists passed his pitch he ran up and down the steps bantering with them in fluent Italian, French and English. His skin was a deep blue-black, beaded with sweat like fresh dew glistened in the sun.
Pabu Selling Bags on the Grand Canal
A little girl, carrying a rolled parasol, dressed in white and a straw boater slipped by. She looked like one of the children from the film "Death in Venice", this fleeting encounter that left a strong visual impression on me; this is how I remember her to be
Girl with a Parasol
Later in the day we visited a church where there were the tombs of Titian, Canova and Monteverdi, and painted walls, paintings by Bernini and Titian, and a sculpture by Donatello. Outside the church my friends waited for me to complete a drawing of a clock tower. They lay lazily in a cool corner of the square and together made a perfect composition against the hard stone walls of the buildings around. I kept them waiting longer because they were an irresistible target for my pencil!
Bridgett, Brendan and Mami Resting in a Cool Corner of the Square
In Venice every wall in every alleyway is decorated.
Pigeon in an Alcove
On the morning of the final day we toured the narrow canalways of Venice by gondola. After we debarked we had two hours to wait before the boat came to collect us to take us to the airport, so I settled myself on the steps of a church near our hotel. I was looking across a square and drew the tourists and Mami who were shopping and relaxing around a marble column finished with elegant black ironwork.
Shoppers and Tourists clustered in groups around a monument at the centre of the Square
The Italians love to talk, like this shopkeeper who was standing in the doorway of her shop chatting with passers by
or these two friends who were also gossiping
A little French boy with a soft blue silk scarf around his neck was running across the square and chasing the pigeons. His name was Mael
Mael Chasing Pigeons
His brother Luca was sitting just behind me
Mael's elder brother Luca
Their mother, a red rose in her hair, gave her children gilati which they eat in the sun, this allowed the young parents time to rest a while
Luca with his gilato
Luca was quiet and busy writing something on a little pad, later I discovered he was drawing me, we exchanged email addresses and agreed to send pictures to each other. Eventually the father lifted a large rucksack on his back, and the mother picked up Mael; it was time for the family to go to do some more sightseeing.
It was time for the family to go on their way
It was also time for us to go back to our hotel. The sun had shone throughout our four days in Venice, for the first time there were clouds in the sky and the air was beginning to spit with rain. When we arrived at the airport it was raining, when we arrived back in Wales is was still raining, but our garden is a flood of colour that rivals Venetian beauty. Being 60 is not all bad, but I cannot wait another 42 years before visiting the serene lady of Venice again, meanwhile I have plenty to draw.