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Filtering by Tag: Venice

A Venetian Morning at Caffe Florian

Sophia Khan

A Watercolor inspired by my sketch at Caffe Florian

A Watercolor inspired by my sketch at Caffe Florian

“In order to paint Venice beautifully, I must enjoy her beautifully.”
- Venice, 2016

Having visited Venice a few times since 1998, I finally treated myself to the pleasure of my own personal “Florian experience,” during my last painting trip to the city, in 2016. The timing was perfection, as two days after writing the above words in my travel diary, I had breakfast at Caffe Florian. I was indeed to enjoy Venice, beautifully.

That morning, I dressed myself as was befitting for the occasion, with a colorful and silky dress. As the city awoke, I boarded the vaporetto from my hotel near the Basilica dei Frari, accompanied by locals who seemed to be headed off for a day’s work. I too was heading to work, in a certain way. I was to dedicate my day to painting a watercolor for one of my trip’s patrons.

I arrived at Caffe Florian, just as it was opening its doors. I was warmly greeted and welcomed to sit anywhere I pleased. I walked around taking in the refined elegance of the interiors before selecting my table. I chose a seat that was in a corner near an open door looking into Piazza San Marco. From here, I could look outward at the piazza in one glance, inward at the cafe in another; my enjoyment drifting between the sights and sounds of both.

I ordered tea, a small plate of macarons, and a strawberry cake. Could one have dessert for breakfast? The question barely crossed my mind at the time. My waiter soon arrived with a silver tray served with my chosen delights. I feasted first, on the presentation itself. The colorful plate of macarons arranged as if an artist’s culinary color palette, complimented by the delicacy of the strawberry cake. The silverware, befitting for the delectable treats to be savored slowly.

As I dined at Caffe Florian, my time felt like a brief yet deeply enchanted and romantic moment in the vastness of time; the near 300 years that the cafe has been welcoming its guests from Piazza San Marco.

My morning at Caffe Florian

My morning at Caffe Florian

Can a place feel both opulent and welcoming? Can an experience be both majestic and personable? I feel that much of Venice and certainly Piazza San Marco has these qualities. Caffe Florian felt like the “icing on the cake” with which the city served this unique blend of experiences for me to enjoy my very own taste.

Before leaving the cafe, I gave myself the added treat of visiting the gift shop. With the help of the kind gentleman who worked there, in a room that felt like a treasure box of delights, I selected a few teas and a blue damask tote. Each gift was carefully packaged into its own gift bag; a gesture celebrating and recognizing the uniqueness of each treat, as well as the care with which each was selected.

I do believe that mornings are a precious and tender time of the day, and that they set the tone for what is to come throughout the rest of the day. Unbeknownst to me, my breakfast at Caffe Florian would lead to the most enjoyable painting session of my painting trip. The warmth and ambiance I experienced at the cafe mirroring themselves in the fuchsia and orange watercolor pigments I was to later paint with.

Every now and then I treat myself to this touch of Florian hospitality through their e-shop. The latest to arrive are their Venetian Mosaic tea, a long time favorite, as well as an elegant pouch in a fuchsia color reminiscent of the cafe’s upholstery. With this, I carry the beauty of my “Florian experience” with me every day.

My latest treats from the doors of Caffe Florian

My latest treats from the doors of Caffe Florian

I thank Caffe Florian for this most enchanted memory and until we meet again, I will remember my time through the flavors, the riches, and the moments that grace my easel, my memories, and my diaries…

 

If you enjoyed reading this letter, you can receive future “Letters from my Art Studio” by signing up here.

An Enchanted Venice Watercolor

Sophia Khan

An Enchanted Venice watercolor with detail views, copyright © Sophia Khan

An Enchanted Venice watercolor with detail views, copyright © Sophia Khan

I painted a love letter to Venice. With Mayan Dark Blue, with Carbazole Violet, with Burnt Umber, and iridescent gold. The colors spoke to me of a dream....a dream in which I found myself in Venice. There I was, living a fully abundant and colorful experience, beyond anything familiar, beyond anything expected. Yet, at the same time that the dream told of a world beyond, it all felt so familiar and real, almost as if I had already accepted the invitation of the visions that had come to me in this dream. And all I had to do was awaken to it.

And that is what this watercolor reminds me of. It takes its inspiration from something real, something beautifully designed and built, a place that one can touch, feel, and visit. Yet, there is an air of enchantment in adding new colors, new brushstrokes, and in rendering this historic palace in a light that celebrates endless possibility as something attainable, not only in dreams but in our very world. 

I am excited to share that this watercolor titled, "An Enchanted Venice" inspired by the Ca' d'Oro palace on the Grand Canal, is available as an original in my online shop:

Pescheria, Venice Fish Market

Sophia Khan

watercolor on Arches paper, copyright © Sophia Khan

watercolor on Arches paper, copyright © Sophia Khan

The play of light as it hits the surfaces, textures, and moods of timeless architecture is something I have been exploring in my studio. There is no better city to indulge this than Venice. And so I started with the above watercolor of the Pescheria, or Fish Market. My memories take me to a time when I had visited the market. It was in the afternoon and so it was all emptied out, with me being the only person there. I felt like a had a part of Venice all to myself. There were some wonderful views from within this space, looking out onto the Grand Canal, and the surrounding palazzi. But what I am interested in capturing most is how the light and the city spills into the otherwise dark space of the fish market and creates a picturesque sense of chiaroscuro.

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:

The Poetry of Venice Watercolor

Sophia Khan

The Poetry of Venice, watercolor on Arches paper, copyright © Sophia Khan

The Poetry of Venice, watercolor on Arches paper, copyright © Sophia Khan

The above watercolor is one of my favorites, which I painted one lovely day, during my recent painting trip to Venice. I had started my day at the Caffe Florian, where I enjoyed a lavish breakfast and did a small sketch, and was on my way to paint the Palazzo Fortuny. I became terribly lost, if that term can apply in Venice, where this is bound and perhaps meant to happen often. Another woman was ‘lost’ along with me, on her search to find a related shop selling fabrics, which she had heard of from a friend. When we parted ways, I delved deeper into the maze, and crossed over a bridge into a campo. It struck me immediately....the beautiful central bay of a gothic facade. I was drawn to the playfulness of the stonework and arches.  I felt I was meant to be here, to find this place, and to paint the poetry of the arches dancing along the peach colored stucco.

And so I sat myself down, with my plein air set up and started to paint. The changing crowds and sounds within the campo kept me company. I always thought that being around people, while painting in Venice, would be a bit bothersome, but I quickly learned that I actually enjoyed it. The sounds of children speaking Italian, which has become for me one of the sweetest sounds I know, their occasional curiosity as they watched on, the sounds of friends gathering, the sounds of passing gondolas, as above me the sun blazed it’s rays upon me, making the heat slightly unbearable; just the way I like it when I am drawing or painting outdoors. This all provided a wonderful backdrop, and as it turned out this watercolor became one of the most enjoyable Venetian scenes for me to paint. A friendly local artist was selling her artwork nearby and we exchanged thoughts about our favorite artists, techniques, and materials. As I finished my painting and got up to leave, I resumed my search for the Palazzo Fortuny. This time, to my surprise, I chanced upon it instantly, almost without any effort. Such is the poetry of Venice....


I am also excited to share that I am now offering a set of notecards, featuring some of my favorite watercolors painted in Venice. These are beautiful to gift yourself or a loved one, to tuck within a special gift for a Venice lover, and can also be framed as small prints.

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 Amazon.com 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!

Xx,
Sophia

Reserve "Your Venice" Art Experience

Sophia Khan

Dear Friends,

I am so very excited to share that I will be embarking on a painting trip to Venice, my most beloved and inspiring muse, very soon. 

My first trip there, as an architecture student, opened my mind and eyes to a entirely different way of approaching the design process. But what Venice gave me, went much farther than just that. It gave me a deeper understanding of myself. As I walked its maze, I came to know and appreciated different parts of myself, such as my introversion. This part of me, I previously saw as somewhat of a flaw, but that all went away soon after I found myself in Venice. There I was, in the most magical corner of beautiful Italy, enjoying my time to the fullest, being adventurous, and carefree, in a city that celebrates just that.

But this trip will be much different than my others, in that I will focus primarily on painting while I am there. And so I am so pleased to be offering a gift from Venice, for you to bring into your home.

~ BECOME OF PATRON OF 'YOUR VENICE' ~

I am so excited to share that I will be taking reservations for a limited number of original watercolors. These works of art will be painted en plein air in Venice, for you to own a piece of the beauty of the city, painted in all its glory.

They are priced at $300 USD, and will be 8" x 10" original watercolors.

And because you may know, how much I also enjoy writing, you will also receive a personalized hand written letter, where I will share my experience of the city, and of painting there. Each painting will also include a beautifully designed, signed and numbered Certificate of Authenticity, designed exclusively for these select Venice watercolors.

The exact painting subject will be a delightful surprise for you, but it will be Venice, and it will be beautiful and colorful, with the signature emotive and expressive aesthetic of my work! If there is a special someone in your life who is a Venetophile, it would also make for a wonderful gift....

The uppermost watercolor, of the glorious Piazza San Marco, was painted when I was in the midst of preparing for and anticipating my trip. I hope a part of my joy and excitement has come through in the colors and brushwork....And I am so looking forward to painting in Venice and bringing back a piece of its beauty for some of you!

Wishing you a beautiful day and my very best,

Xx
Sophia

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,

Xx,
Sophia