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Denver Watercolor Class Teacher Dennis Pendleton

Navigating The Painting

As an artist, it is your opportunity to plan and direct the course of your painting rather than simply copying a scene or photograph. This scene of a Venice canal is one that I have painted before in a small size so here I painted it 17 x 24 inches. Working from a photo can led to problems because shadows appear darker and devoid of color, every little detail is included, and it is tempting to copy the photo rather than making changes that will improve your painting. I made over 100 changes, some big and some really small, from the original photo and I will discuss some of the more important ones here.

The second facade was exactly the same color and value as the first facade so I covered it with a wash of rose dore so that the two facades would be different and thus more interesting. In the photo, the top of the painting was a blank extension of the walls which allowed your minds eye to drift right out of the top of the painting so I added a window with clothes on a clothes line, and some darker colors to keep the viewer inside the painting. The white marble balcony on the right was a block of straight lines so I changes the shape so that it is more like a traditional venetian balcony. The water in the original photo was a murky brown which I changed to emerald green. I have been to Venice nine different times on painting trips and I know that the colors in the canals are constantly changing according to the sunlight and time of day and I loved how the emerald green worked with the different reds and pinks in the buildings.

Two of the biggest changes I made were leaving things out and changing hard edges to soft edges. There is a lot more detail in the photo like cracks in the walls, more mooring poles, and more exposed bricks. The camera shows everything in sharp detail so I softened a lot of the edges around the windows, in the reflections, exposed bricks, and in the boats. In the original photo the wooden balcony, windows with shutters and the surrounding area was too dark and difficult to read. I changed values and colors to make this area less confusing. Venice will always be one of my favorite places to paint and I plan on returning there when flying is a lot safer. Happy Painting! Dennis Pendleton

Watercolor Artist's Blog by Dennis Pendleton

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