2020: Venice, Italy

"Painting in a Pandemic"

Initially, I was merely trying to follow "My Year of Monet" by painting pictures of Venice, like Monet had when he was 68 years old, my age at the start of 2020. However, as I explain in "Painting in a Pandemic" and "Still Painting in a Pandemic" the project morphed into something bigger and more relevant with the COVID-19 lockdowns in Italy and at home in Carlsbad, CA.

Here are the paintings thus far in 2020.

Calm before the Storm

The first few paintings were started when life was normal. The first picture was based on one of Monet's, though I didn't attempt to emulate his style as I had during my studies of 2019. Instead, I approached this series with fresh new confidence, which I wrote about in "Still Painting in a Pandemic."

Venice Homes (V01) 2020 • 28 x 22

Next, I achieved a 17-year goal. My wife, Lindsey and I visited Venice in 2003 and stayed directly across the canal  from the Palais Bembo. At that time, I did a watercolor sketch from my hotel room and could only dream of a day I might be skilled enough to attempt an oil painting of the same beautiful building. Mission accomplished!

2003 (watercolor)
Palais Bembo (V02) 2020 • 28 x 22

As a matter of fact, I got the idea for this Venice series when I attended a Monet retrospective exhibit in December and one of his Doge's Palace masterpiece caught my eye. Here's my rendition:

The Doge's Palace (V04) 2020 • 28 x 22

On our 2003 vacation, I only brought along a video camera, and subsequently, didn't have as many personal photos as I'd hoped. There were just two that I used, based on still frames from our home movies:

Gondolas & Giorgio Maggiore (V03) 2020 • 28 x 22
Gondolier in 2003 (V05) 2020 • 28 x 22

Otherwise, for source material, I manipulated online images I found and used some of my friend George's vacation photos, such as this one:

Grand Canal with Santa Maria della Salute (V06) 2020 • 28 x 22

Venice Flooded

As I searched for images on the internet, I was struck by news accounts of the November, 2019 floods in Venice. Due to storms and high tides, the water levels were exceptionally high. From what I read and saw, this was due to the effects of global warming; and, I felt compelled to make a statement about climate change that would contrast the more traditional, lovely compositions I'd been considering for this series.

The Doge's Palace, which I showed above, was built in the first half of the 1300's and has been memorialized in drawings and paintings ever since. I can hardly comprehend how old and magnificent it is. The picture below shows what it looked liked when the floods came, and it pains me to think that it and all of Venice might someday suffer the fate of Atlantis.

The Doge's Palace Flooded (V07) 2020 • 28 x 22

While the painting above seems to convey deep, somewhat calm waters, the one below captures the stormy waves of the Grand Canal and grim weather:

The Rialto Bridge Flooded (V08) 2020 • 28 x 22

The Pandemic Strikes

The National Basketball Association stopped playing on March 11, 2020 due to players testing positive for Covid-19; and, Lindsey and I began our own quarantine. A week later, the govenor of California issued s statewide stay-at-home order. A few weeks earlier, Venice had started a lockdown, and it led to to some unexpectedly beautiful consequences, and my motifs shifted again. Without tourism and countless boats polluting the Venetian lagoon, the water turned clearer and serene. The colors of city also changed:

The Legend of the Lockdown Dolphin (V09) 2020 • 28 x 22

Rumors of dolphins and swans returning to the Grand Canal surfaced, and I believed them when I started this picture. Actually, dolphins were confirmed off the coast of Sardinia, Italy in the Tyrrhenian Sea, not the Adriatic, where Venice sits. Nonetheless, I liked the symbolism of the dolphin's return and included it in the painting. Can you find it?

The swans were in Burano (below), an island suburb of Venice:

Swans in a Pandemic (V10) 2020 • 28 x 22

More to come...