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Filtering by Tag: Italy

The Frari, Venice Watercolor

Sophia Khan

Because she dreamed, she created doors
Because she believed, she unlocked them...

Portal of the Frari, Venice
© Sophia Khan

The above two watercolors are of a portal at the beautiful church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, which I painted while in Venice. One of the things I loved about this church is crossing the threshold between city life and reflective life as signified in the brief moment of encounter, at the doors. These doors celebrate the entrance into a blessed and sacred space and like with any doorway, I love the symbolism within them: a passing through, a leaving behind of the old and of what no longer serves us, of entering into a new beginning, of entering into....a mystery.

This church was located a few steps from the hotel that I was staying at. And so I passed it often. It became, like any city monument, a sort of grounding place, a point of reference, and also a place of celebration, a place to pause and to take in the majesty that is before me. There were certain hours of the day when locals would pass by the surrounding square, and so I managed to enjoy some people watching as I did these paintings. 

I am excited to be offering these original watercolors for sale, for $300 USD each + shipping. If you would love to own one or both, simply email with me through my 'connect' page

Below are some images of the lovely church interior, along with my sketches:

Dream view of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice

Sophia Khan

Watercolor on Arches paper. Copyright © Sophia Khan

Watercolor on Arches paper. Copyright © Sophia Khan

The view shown in this painting, where one catches a magical glimpse of the beautiful church of San Giorgio Maggiore, through the arcade of the Doge’s Palace, is one I happily discovered during my recent visit to Venice. During my very first visit, I had actually sketched the same arcade, but in the opposite direction, looking towards St Mark’s.

Each time that I visit Venice, the city appears slightly different to me. A different aspect of it calls to me. This time, especially during the first few days that I was there, a feeling of serenity overcame me. And so the color palette for this watercolor reflects that sense of calm. The prominence of blue is also suggestive of the elements of sky and water which always surround this glorious city. And the brushwork, along with the colors, reminiscent of the dream-like feeling I had as I entered into the city after so many years.

It was early in the morning, that I started the drawing for this watercolor. I wanted to start making my art before the crowds came in. And then later in the day, when the piazza became much more crowded, I returned to do the painting. I didn’t mind the crowds too much. For a piazza is a place of gathering, a place of celebration, and the passing crowds often yielded curious children, a friendly local, or a tourist who would look over my work, or ask to take a photo while I worked.

It was this feeling of serenity that carried me gently through the calle and canals of Venice, as I continued my creative journey into the maze-like arms of La Serenissima. 

One of the things that I enjoy doing when I am in Venice, is entering Piazza San Marco from all of its various entrances. Each entrance provides its own visual and spatial poetry. And this brings me to another aspect of the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore that always intrigues me.

When one enters the piazza from the north, beneath the clock tower, something very interesting happens. As one draws closer to the church, it appears to get further away. This is a play on perspective created by the arch below the tower, and also the mystery and magic of the church and its positioning. The sketches below show two different views sketched as I drew closer to the church, and it appeared to draw further away.

On another note, I would love to share a new book I am currently reading, on the subject of Venice and its Architecture. Dream of Venice Architecture is a remarkable gem of a book that has managed to make the often niche world of Architecture accessible to all in a profoundly beautiful way. It's filled with highly personal and evocative essays by a variety of Architects and writers, who share their intimate observations, reflections, and encounters with the Architecture and urban environment of this remarkable city. Many of these essays read as if we are getting a private glimpse into the writer's personal diaries...

For my entire review and more information on Dream of Venice Architecture, see the link here.

Plein Air Venice Watercolors

Sophia Khan

Detail views of a few of the watercolors that I painted in Venice ~ I'll be sharing more soon....

Detail views of a few of the watercolors that I painted in Venice ~ I'll be sharing more soon....

I've returned from my very first plein air painting trip to Venice and am overjoyed to be sharing my artwork with you over the next couple of weeks.

Each time that I travel to Venice, I have found that a different aspect of it calls to me most. During my first trip, the city surrounded me with its sense of mystery and adventure. And during this trip, while those aspects were still present, it was a feeling of serenity that came to me most. Perhaps when we travel, we are in search of something...some feeling, some idea, sensation, or belief, and Venice is one of those places that gives us just what we need....if we stay long enough, and quite enough to allow it to speak to us.

Something I have come to realize about my creative journey as a Watercolorist, as I look back on my body of work, is that Venice taught me how to paint. So to return to the source of my guidance, my inspiration, my muse, a place whose rapture and beauty inspired my style and technique, was immensely joyful and enriching for me.

At the top of this email is a sneak peak at a few of my favorite watercolors, which I painted while I was there. Each has its own story, which I will look forward to sharing with you soon. For now, it's back to the studio, with my newly filled up inspiration well to paint some new Venice watercolors....

Venice Art Trip Preparations

Sophia Khan

Palazzo Dario ~ a playful façade along the Grand Canal

Palazzo Dario ~ a playful façade along the Grand Canal

It's been an exciting and busy last few weeks for me as I prepare for my upcoming trip to paint in Venice. One of the things that I have been doing creatively, is experimenting with some new paint colors and techniques, and gathering and sorting all the art supplies I would like to take along. I've also been indulging in books about or inspired by Venice, and about traveling solo in general, which is my favorite way to explore other parts of the world.

And so today, sharing some of those watercolors and some glimpses of my 'preparations' for Venice.

I also want to take this time, to dearly thank everybody who has reserved an original Venice watercolor from this trip. It will bring me so much joy to bring back a part of my creative journey for you, and I so look forward to my painting explorations while I am there. Thank you, thank you so very much.

(Reservations have now been sold out, but I do look forward to having some lovely new Venice inspired art for my shop when I return).

Beneath the balcony ~ a charming façade in Venice

Beneath the balcony ~ a charming façade in Venice

Below are some of the art supplies I'll be bringing with me: a fresh new travel palette, my favorite watercolors, a small travel watercolor set for cafes and restaurants, various sized watercolor pads and sketchbooks, my favorite watercolor brushes, a few new tools to experiment with....

And also a few small notebooks, as I have a daily practice of writing first thing in the morning, and before going to bed at night. I so look forward to bringing that practice along with me and to seeing how Venice inspires...

In the map below, I've started highlighting some preliminary ideas of places I would love to paint...All the while leaving much room for spontaneous discovery and inspiration, while I am there!

For now, back to my studio, back to dreaming and joyfully putting some 'finishing touches' on my preparations, and yes, brushing up on Italian!

Wishing you my very best, from my corner of the world to yours, and looking forward to reconnecting once I return from Venice!


Venetian Night Watercolor

Sophia Khan

Watercolor on Arches paper

Watercolor on Arches paper

copyright © Sophia Khan

In celebration of the upcoming holidays, I am excited to be offering complimentary shipping on prints, originals, and notecards in my online shop ~ see link above (valid for purchases $50 and up, and including International shipping as well ~ for a limited time only)

Today's watercolor is my first Venetian night scene, and even though I don't paint night scenes very often, I had a lot of fun putting paint to paper on this one. And then these thoughts....

In Venice, like no other place that I have been, the city 'transforms' itself at nightfall. What was once so in the day, changes at night and what the night brings forth, the day can never manifest.

There is mystery at night, but it is never one that feels unsafe. No, rather it welcomes a sense of adventure; that same feeling that lured us into the city in the first place.

And it is within this dark that its spaces speak to us eve more. It is in this dark that we begin to see the Piazza anew, and we can now feel our very own presence within it, as the crowds begin to diminish. Indeed, even we become more beautiful here in Venice, at nightfall.

Until next time, wishing you all a beautiful week ahead, and my very best,


Fountain of Bliss ~ Bologna, Italy

Sophia Khan

watercolor on Arches paper

watercolor on Arches paper

Fountain of Bliss, Bologna, Italy | painted without a pencil sketch | copyright © Sophia Khan

A dreamy, inviting watercolor celebrating the beauty of a courtyard within the Basilica of Santa Stefano.

Dear Friends, 

No matter where I visit courtyards, in lands East or West, they always convey much of the same beautiful sense of serenity and inner calm. There is a universal love for what the courtyard 'contains', for what it exudes, for how one feels within its presence. And they are all the more inviting with the element of water.

This courtyard is in the Basilica di Santo Stefano, in the city of Bologna, Italy. A moment of repose from the movement outside, of people strolling the many lovely arcades that line the city.

With this watercolor, as with much of my art, the idea was not about a photorealistic representation, but more about the moment of encounter, one's presence within the space, in a manner that celebrates the qualities that make it unique and render it unforgettable to the traveler.

For this weekend, I will be offering complimentary shipping on this original watercolor (International shipping qualifies as well :~) See link here. 

Wishing you a beautiful weekend ahead ~ and may it be filled with much beauty, delight, and wonder...


Rome Watercolor ~ What are Ruins?

Sophia Khan

watercolor on Arches paper ~ painted without a pencil sketch  

watercolor on Arches paper ~ painted without a pencil sketch  

copyright © Sophia Khan

Do ruins stand as testaments to our eternal or our mortal selves?

I posed this question to accompany my photograph of the ruins in Persepolis, onto my private facebook a while ago. It was somewhat rhetorical, but to my delight, moments later I received a response from a former colleague. Someone I consider a mentor, in ways, who often inspired me with his incredibly vast and thorough knowledge of architecture and it's history. He wrote:

"Ruins provide the incentive for restoration, and for a return to origins. There has to be an interim of death or rejection before there can be renewal and reform" ~ J.B. Jackson

It was one of those passages layered with so much meaning. If one wants, what is literal can be taken away from it, and if one so chooses, one can read into the many layers and depths of what is being said. That in mind, I will refrain from commenting too much about these powerful words as they do speak for themselves, and I hope you enjoy what they seem to imply about the journey of our lives.

The photograph that inspired the sketch above was one that had been in my mind for quite some time. The structure appeared to me as something powerful, not because of anything highly elaborate, but simply because of the way it carries itself.  Through the years, through the ages, through its formation, through its decay, it holds a certain glory that its crumbling stones are both humbled by and in celebration of.

"Dwell on the beauty of life.  Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them." ~ Marcus Aurelius, Meditations. Rome

On another note, I am excited to share that I have recently launched my Design Trade Program for Interior Designers and Architects, which can be joined at the below link:

Distance & Desire ~ A Valentine's Day Venetian Art and Book Giveaway

Sophia Khan

watercolor on Arches paper

watercolor on Arches paper

Distance and Desire, Venice

painted without a pencil sketch
copyright © Sophia Khan

Today I am so very excited to be sharing a beautiful twofold giveaway.  This is in celebration of the upcoming Valentine's Day, and in the spirit of one of the most beloved cities for the mysteries of love, the beauty of rapture, and the lure of romance and the unknown.

And as this day for cherishing your loved one's nears, thoughts of longing, thoughts of desire - distance and desire -appear on my easel and in my diary...


Distance and desire

Distance is sacred because it creates longing and desire
It makes the moment of pleasure in the arms of a beloved city all the more enthralling
Tears of joy can only flow after an ocean of waiting is traversed
And in the end, one never does 'leave.' A place becomes one with the emotion that it awoke within us.
And it is this emotion that we seek to recreate in our everyday lives back home.
We get close, but we remain in essence, distant.  And in that space, emerges the beauty of Longing; emerges the beauty of Desire...


I paint to remember, I paint to celebrate that distance, to celebrate that encounter; to know, to listen, to be closer to my memories and to the essence of place. As such, a painting, at times paints itself. With this watercolor, the color of desire, the color of romance, became a suggestion of an intimate encounter. A dialogue that secretly took place between the viewer and a mysterious person who, just moments ago, walked away from a balcony of the Ca' d'Oro on the Grand Canal. Or perhaps, a dialogue about to take place; a moment of anticipation. And so it celebrates much of what is experienced within the city itself. 

But art is not solitary.  I paint to share the experience of a place, the emotion, and the encounter, with others. And just the same, I often read the words of others, to revel in the experience writers have of places I myself hold dear. It is no surprise my bookshelves are filled with travel memoirs, travel essays, architectural history, and travel sketchbooks of other artists. And along the way has come a book, an experience really, that speaks of this 'distance and desire' as it evokes the emotion of Venice. 

When I received the book, Dream of Venice, and opened it up to the very first page and image, I had to simply stop and sit myself down. Before me, there was intensely evocative and overwhelming beauty. There was mystery, intrigue, a suggestion of so many layers of stories, layers of everyday lives. I gave this image, this moment, the time it so beautifully asked for, before being able to move on. 

As I continued over time, to read the prose and wander through the layered imagery, filled with a kaleidoscope of emotions and reflections, I am brought closer to the state of my own longing, the state of my own desire for Venice.   Each moment, each emotion elicited in this book, has a depth and richness that only Venice can inspire. And they all lyrically come together to form the concerto of a dream that is as much about Venice as it is about encounter. 

And so experiencing this book, reminds me so much of experiencing Venice. How my footsteps stopped before the overwhelm and beauty of the city when I first saw it, as I stood awe-struck before being able to move ahead any further. How I wondered how so much beauty had suddenly come upon me and from where, once I entered Piazza San Marco. There is anticipation and a moment of astonishing beauty, that nothing could have prepared me for. And the rest of the maze of the city-a myriad of curiosity, mystery, discoveries, elicited emotions, and delightful surprises about the city, and about myself.

Artists, writers, and makers hope most of all to stir emotion. I hope that my watercolor, 'Distance and Desire' conveys some of what has moved me so, within this city, and am so thrilled to be enjoying a new 'place', the book Dream of Venice, where the wonder and complexity of Venice is so rapturously evoked. 

I had never thought of a book as an experience before. As such, it is one's own personal encounter with this book that will bring out its true gems for each unique reader-just as the city will for each traveler. And so I am thrilled that the publisher, Bella Figura Publications, is kindly offering to gift a complimentary copy of this book, in celebration of sharing their love for this remarkable city on Valentine's Day.

Dream of Venice. Bella Figura Publications. 2014. Photography by Charles Christopher, edited by JoAnn Locktov, forward by Frances Mayes

The winner will also be receiving a set of (5) Greeting Cards, with envelopes, of my watercolor 'Distance creates Desire' as shown above. These can be secretly tucked in as a card within a beautiful gift, used to write a love letter or poem on the back, gifted to an Italophile, or framed as a small print. 

This competition is now closed to entries.  If you would like to purchase a copy of the acclaimed new book featured here, Dream of Venice, it is available on Amazon here.

If you would like cards, prints, or the original watercolor of the featured art, Distance & Desire, they are available at the below links:

Please note that due to regulations, this competition is only open to US residents, ages 18 and up.  Please see terms and conditions below.  To enter the competition, simply do one or more of the below steps.  (Each step counts as an additional entry and will increase your chances of winning).  Then, leave a comment below this blog post letting us know which steps you have completed, so we can know how many entries to create in your name. 

The options to enter are one or more of the following + leaving a comment as described above:

  • Subscribe to Sophia Khan Studio's watercolor inspiration journal.  (Link to subscribe here).
  • Follow Dream of Venice on Twitter:
  • Follow Sophia Khan Studio on Twitter:
  • Tweet this offer, either by composing your own personal tweet or using the 'Share' feature below the post and include the following hashtags #giveaway #venice #valentinesday #book #art.  (Please remember the hashtags will need to be inserted within the automated tweet-you can simply copy/paste them from this post).
  • Follow Sophia Khan Studio on Pinterest:
  • Pin the image of the book onto a Pinterest board, using the 'Share' feature below the post.

(If you are already subscribed to my newsletter and/or already follow the Twitter account(s) prior to this contest, you can still enter.  Just let me know in the comments).

I look forward to hearing from you and wish you all much luck and lots of fun with the entries! (Do remember that to complete the entry process you must leave a comment below indicating which steps you have completed so I can make the correct number of entries in your name).

This contents runs now through February 13th, 2015.  The winner will be chosen at random and announced in the comments section of this blog post, on Valentine's Day, February 14th, 2015.

terms and conditions

This contest is open to US residents, ages 18 and up. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. The contest runs now through February 13th, 2015. This contest is sponsored by Sophia A Khan and Bella Figura Publications. There will be one winner chosen at random on february 14, 2015. the winner will be announced in the comments section of this blog, with the name provided and will be contacted through the email address they provide. UPON BEING CONTACTED, WE ASK THAT THE WINNER PROVIDE A VALID US ADDRESS, WITHIN THREE DAYS, WHERE WE MAY SHIP THE PRIZES. The odds of winning are dependent upon the number of entries. Entries will be accepted as described in the steps outlined in the blog post above.We reserve the right to void the winning entry, if it does not comply with our terms and conditions. In the event that this should happen, we reserve the right to choose another winner at random. The greeting cards will be shipped by Sophia A Khan, and the book will be shipped by Bella Figura Publications.  The set of greeting cards have a retail value of $24 and the book has a retail value of $26. Prizes will be shipped to US addresses only. Affiliates, employees, and family members of both sponsors are ineligible. Sophia A Khan and Bella Figura Publications are not liable for any loss that may be incurred from entering or winning this contest, or for any damage to prizes incurred during shipment.

Moment of Repose, Villa Guilia, Rome

Sophia Khan

watercolor on Arches paper

watercolor on Arches paper

copyright © Sophia Khan

Places have a certain resonance to them. Different cities, sites, monument, all bring out a different part of who we are, when we travel there. I feel a more adventurous when I am in Venice, more serene and relaxed in the Tuscan countryside. And the more a country and it's culture is different from that of my home, the more it enriches, the more it allows me to escape from my everyday and what is familiar to me, and the more it widens my scope of understanding of myself. 

The Villa Guilia, painted above, is one of those places where a sense of lightness, a sense of serenity, calm, and restfulness takes over. With this watercolor, of a corner detail, I used colors and brushwork to convey those feeling I remember experiencing when I was there. 

And so our travels become fragments, gems of who we are, that stay with us in some form, even when we return home from these places. 

In the spirit of this, I am excited to be offering Valentine's Day gift bookings, for custom Fine Art Travel Mementos. These are similar to gift certificates. I would send you a printable certificate, as shown below, which you can gift to a loved one on Valentine's Day. I would then work from their favorite travel photograph, to make a beautiful, impressionistic, bespoke painting for them. 

This gift works especially beautifully to commemorate a honeymoon travel memory. It can also be gifted to someone close, as a gesture of celebrating their most memorable travels and what makes them unique. 

The choices for Valentine's Day certificates are as shown below. The text reads:


A Gift that Brings Home your Most Memorable Travels
~ A Bespoke Work of Art to be Painted from your Favorite Travel photograph~
by Watercolorist Sophia Khan

Gifted by_____________________

(If your prefer different wording or a different image, I can provide a custom designed certificate as well).

The various sizes available are as follow:

8" x 10" ((20.3 x 25.4 cm) for $470
11" x 14" (27.9 x 35.6 cm) for $670
16" x 20" (40.6 x 50.8 cm) for $870

(All prices are in USD. Shipping charges are additional and will be calculated depending upon destination. New York addresses will be charged the appropriate state and local sales tax).

To receive your certificate to give as a gift, you can get in touch through my contact page here.  Let me know what size painting you would like to gift, the certificate of choice from the above three, names to be included, and where the final painting would be shipped (city, country).

I look forward to making this Valentine's Day a bit more special, memorable, and beautiful for you and your loved one.

With my Warmest Regards,

p.s. For those who may be in or near NY, I will be doing a painting demonstration at the Art League of Long Island's "Art After Dark" on Friday night.  More info here.