Monday, September 6, 2010

Venice Revisited

Posted by Bill

Normally I avoid back-lit subjects because too much of the scene is nothing but silhouettes. However, Maggie took a photo in Venice a few years ago which caught my eye because of the wonderful sparkling water and the easily-interpreted action of the gondolas. Our guy in the foreground was clearly waiting for the others to get out of the way.

The reference photo was taken just following a rain so everything was clean and the air was clear. The photo had a few modern boats in the distance, but I liked the timeless quality achieved by leaving them out. The photo tried, as usual, to lead me astray—in this case, with a blue sky and turquoise water. I tried painting it that way, but it didn't work, as the sky and water seemed unrelated. So I put a little turquoise in the sky.

The photograph also had a solid, featureless shadow going from the gondola to the bottom of the frame. I thought this made sense as the vertical planes of the gondolas were solid silhouettes, but when I made the shadow solid, no matter how much I fiddled with it, it just didn't work. It finally dawned on me that the water was horizontal and that if had I been standing on the dock looking at it, I would have seen ripples even in the darker water. Changing that really worked.

The final painting, above left: The Patient Gondolier, 24x18, © Bill Canright.

In the photograph, there was also a weird thing poking out of the back of the boat that looked like a detached leg pointing at the sky. This definitely fit the rule: "If you don't know what it is, don't paint it." On the other hand, If I'd left it in I would have had a name for the painting. I could have called it A Leg Up.

If I'm ever in Venice again I am going to try to figure out what it was. Perhaps someone reading this can enlighten me.

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