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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.

A Venice Letter from my Studio

Sophia Khan


I hope that the beginning of 2019 has been a beautiful, joyful, and love filled time for you and yours. And I hope that the serenity and hope that filled your heart at the coming of a new year, continues to be with you throughout this year and beyond, and that it bring you an endless abundance of gifts.

Andrew Harvey, a mystic writer and teacher, is someone I have been blessed to learn from. In one of his online teachings, he shares an exercise in which we were to write about (10) moments in our life, in which we experienced awe. We then wrote the specifics about how this awe was experienced, and what this awe was telling us that makes us so excited. It sounds fairly simply, but upon such deep reflection on those moments of awe in my life, I was able to go quite deep into a well of knowing and appreciation of the true gifts within each of those moments of awe. Moments that I would otherwise gloss over in my memory.

It came to me as no surprise, that many of those moments in my life were experienced during my travels. And whether you have been reading my letters for years, or are new here, you likely will know the affinity, the reverence, and the passion I have for travel. For me, that does not mean I have to travel often. Rather, it means I have to travel well. One way in which that materializes for me, is that I often only visit one city, no matter the length of my stay. I enjoy immersing myself slowly into a new culture, and trying to experience it as if I was living there, not just passing by.

Several letters ago, some time after returning from my trip to Paris, I touched upon how I would not be painting and sharing my work as often as I typically did. This turned out to be a good thing for two reasons. One, being something that I hope to share in the coming months, and the other being that it has given me insights into seeing my work in a larger context. One example of that is a deeper sense of gratitude towards the places that continue to inspire my art, not the least of which is the city of Venice. Sadly, I am seeing and reading about many ways in which the city is being threatened. From it architecture, be it the cruise ships causing detriment to fragile foundations and walls, or flooding during high tides, to its culture and the livelihood of the Venetians, be it mass, and sadly often insensitive, tourism, the rising cost of living, the closing of small shops that cater to locals, and the lack of work opportunities to encourage younger generations of Venetians to stay within the city. Much of this I have come to learn of, through the twitter account of Dream of Venice.

Being that much of what is harming the city of Venice results from mass tourism, I cannot help but feel that if I return I must somehow earn my right to do so. I do not know exactly what that means for me right now. But what I do know and what I can do is help to fortify the city, in my own minuscule way, through supporting the work of Save Venice, a nonprofit which has been working on architectural restoration and art conservation projects throughout the city. If you are a collector, your support has helped enable me to become a member, so I am very grateful for being able to play my small part.

In my next letter, I will share another place in Italy that I am passionately painting. It happens to be a bit off the beaten path. It's a place I haven't spoken about or painted very often in the past, but it is strangely very close to my heart. I will look forward to sharing with you.

If you enjoy reading my letters, you can receive yours by signing up here.

An Enchanted Moment at Caffe Florian, Venice

Sophia Khan

Watercolor on Fabriano paper, copyright © Sophia Khan

Watercolor on Fabriano paper, copyright © Sophia Khan

Here it is...And it only happens once a year. My holiday special on art including Original Watercolors, Limited Editions, and Greeting Cards.

Now through Friday, November 23rd, enjoy complimentary shipping on all orders over $70. And yes, this includes international orders as well :~)

It's the start of the holiday season, and for me it's a lovely time to celebrate life; a time of hope, wonder, family, warmth, laughter, and lots of beauty everywhere. So if you'd like to treat yourself or a loved one to some beauty from my studio, I would love for you to enjoy this special.

The discount code is: ARTLOVE

I hope you enjoy! :~)

The above watercolor takes me back to a time of wonder, beauty, enchantment, and the kindness of others, which I experienced in my last painting trip to Venice. If it would delight you to own this piece, please send me a message through my ‘connect’ page, and I'll share the details.

Wishing you a most wonder filled start to the holiday season, filled with much love, joy, beauty, and laughter!


Painting Grandeur in Venice

Sophia Khan

This month marks a special time for me, as an artist. It is my five year anniversary of being an 'artist-preneur', as we've taken to sometimes calling ourselves. The rewards of having chosen to embark on this path are many; some are outward, many are inward. After my very first year as a working artist, I had written about the many gems of wisdom I gained, on the beautifully nourishing website of Carrie-Ann Moss, Annapurna Living, which can be read here.

If you happen to read it, I would love to hear your thoughts, if you are so inclined to share.

Many of you will know that the architecture of Venice, and of many other Italian cities are my very favorite subjects to paint. For me, these places represent an art, an aspiration which I feel is, for the large part, lacking in modern times.

I look to the Pantheon in Rome, to the Duomo of Florence, and to many of the Gothic cathedrals in Europe. In the expanse of their magnificent domes, I see a representation of the grandeur of the human spirit and its aspirations towards something greater than itself, towards the divine, and towards ideals and perfect form.

These structures also display attention to details as seen in their intricate stone carvings, and harmonic proportions as evident in the geometry of their plans and elevations. While these all give a wonderful sense of scale in relation to the human form, the magnificence of their domes allow the human spirit to soar.

For me, these ideas are far more enriching than the question of who can build the tallest skyscraper standing today.

Photo and sketches of the Pantheon in Rome, from my 2004 travel sketchbook

Photo and sketches of the Pantheon in Rome, from my 2004 travel sketchbook

This sense of grandeur is not only evident in churches and cathedrals throughout Italy, but also in experiences such as drifting along the grand canal in Venice at nightfall and catching glimpses of the opulence behind the facades of palazzi.

The above watercolor is one in which I started experimenting with this idea of grandeur through my memories of traveling to Venice.

One of the other subjects I have also been painting is flowers. For me, they are a dip into the well of joy. The more time I spend on this Earth the more I notice just how beautiful and precious this life we live truly is....

‘Watercolor Petals’ in my sketchbook

‘Watercolor Petals’ in my sketchbook

And because I have been finding so much joy in painting these 'watercolor petals' I have a small offering. If you would like to purchase artwork from my online shop, be it a limited edition print, an original, or a set of notecards, I will also be painting a small 'watercolor petal' to gift you, as a delightful treat. I will be offering this for the next five days.

I hope you enjoyed reading this letter, and thank you for being here. May your day and weekend ahead be filled with much beauty, wonder, and joy.

Colors of Venetian Facades

Sophia Khan

Colors of Venetian Facades, copyright © Sophia Khan

Colors of Venetian Facades, copyright © Sophia Khan

I would love to share my very first plein air Venice watercolor, painted during my recent trip to Venice and the story behind it....

This was the very first painting I was inspired to paint in Venice, the very first day that I was there. I did not intent to paint on this day, as I did not think I would have the energy to do so, however, I so fell in love with this facade the instant that I saw it, and was so full of admiration and inspiration, that I couldn’t not paint it. It was a facade that I could see from outside my very own hotel window.

I was staying in the San Polo sestiere; one that was much less crowded by tourists. Being that I was visiting Venice as the tourist season begins, this was something that was very important to me; to be around more locals than outsiders. I started to have a creative dialog with this facade the moment I chanced upon it, and drew a sketch of one of the lovely arches up above. I knew then that I wanted to do more. So I returned to my hotel to get my plein air painting gear. I had vowed to keep it all portable and simple so that I could easily carry everything around. I had a foldable stool and a small clipboard, which I carried in a lightweight portfolio case, a travel palette with my favorite colors, my best brushes, and a thermos for my water.


I set up my gear and did not have any of the initial intimidation or nervousness that I thought I would, with this being my first plein air painting trip. I was filled with so much joy and excitement around being here, and I poured all of those feelings and love into the painting. There was a restaurant nearby and an elderly man was sitting solo outdoors, enjoying his wine. Surrounding me the sweet sound of bells began to toll, the water in the canal fronting the doors created a beautiful rhythm, and in the air a bit of a sense of haze that I was actually living my dream of painting here in was all so very memorable for me and such a lovely way to begin my creative journey into La Serenissima.

I had my first taste of what painting en plein air in Venice was like, and was happily eager for more.