7 Rooftop Garden Paintings: Tuscany, Cinque Terre & Venice

I fell in love with backyard gardens in Tuscany

Every nook & cranny is an oasis awaiting cultivation

backyard garden painting of venice italy
Venezia Dream

Venice

Flowers cascade from every window sill and balcony. During my residency, I painted in Tuscany, Cinque Terre, Figline, Volterra, Florence, Cortona, and Venice.

The Perch by Dorothy Fagan
The Perch, detail

It was not until I returned home, that I began to see the Tuscan colors seeping into my palette. My palette softened and my eye for selecting what to paint focused in on gardens.

Rooftop Garden Paintings, Cinque Terre
Rooftop Garden Series

Figline

Clotheslines with fresh laundry hung in every nook and cranny excited my imagination. A special connection to warm-hearted Italian friends stirred with every breeze.

Rooftop Garden Paintings, Florence, Italy
The Awning

Monterossa

Each painting appears to me a dream. Each window represents a person, an opportunity of a new friend. Some windows spill flowers, open and prolific, others just peeking, a few closed to shade the light.

The Perch, Rooftop Garden Painting Series
The Perch, Rooftop Garden Painting Series ~ Cinque Terre

Florence

Each painting seems to tell a story, an imaginary tale. Who would live there? What would they be saying? Would they be smiling, asking questions, or what? Would I recognize them?

Rooftop Garden Paintings, Tuscany
Rooftop Garden

A gardener myself, I get the message. Plant joy, drip water, fertilize with love.

Village Blooming, Cinque Terre balconies blooming
Village Blooming, Cinque Terre balconies blooming

Poggio Alla Croce

Windows and doorways like eyes peeking out at me.

Village on thetHill
Village on the Hill
VillageRossa2
Villa Rossa, Balcony Garden painting series

Three Sisters

An open balcony beside three sisters tucked into a window niche, side by side in the sun. Me, myself, and I?

Village Trio, Venice Window Garden
Village Trio, Venice Window Garden

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Venice Grande Canal ~ How to Capture the Sparkling Moment?

With so much to see and do in Venice, I didn’t even try to bring oil paint. I couldn’t imagine myself carrying wet paintings on the train, on foot or even a water taxi! I did take my watercolor palette and sketchbook. And of course my Iphone.

Arriving on the afternoon train, the light was perfect for photos. Fascinated with back lit shapes against the Grande Canal, I took a series of photographs.

Values First

One thing I have learned on this trip is that the camera over-exposes the highlights and under-exposes the shadows. I have been going through all my pics and adjusting the highlights, darker. And lightening the shadows.

Venice
Grande Canal, oil, 11 x 14

All this adjusting has made me more sensitive to values. Lights and shadows set the stage for color to function in a painting.

In this painting, I wanted to express my fascination with the shimmering light on the Grande Canal. I love the play of light shapes between the people, boats and pilings. This movement made every moment magical. To me this is what is so stunning about Venice ~ the magic of being there in the moment.

Painting Venice

detail
detail

How to capture this shimmer in a painting? I started with this question and a panel I had toned previously with a cool, neutral, mid-value gray. A little of this blue gray still peeks through in the painting.

The palette is very limited, using my neutral cool gray and Yellow Ochre, Ultramarine Blue and of course, Fastmatte Alkyd White. Toward the end I added touches of Alizarin Crimson for the darker shadows. And hints of Cadmium Lemon in the sparkling lights.

Converting a Hazard into Sparkle

detail
detail

The biggest potential danger in working this composition was in letting the figures along the sidewalk on the left become too prominent, thereby causing a conflict with the gondola on the the canal.

Instead of becoming too prominent, these figures stop the eye from moving off the canvas. Rather they create a triangle for the viewer to move along the sidewalk, back along the canal, a few distant boats and back to the gondola.

I didn’t think about this compositional element helping with the shimmer. Yet looking at  it now, I see the same mystery of moving shapes as I felt standing there on the bridge. The magic of being there was in feeling the movement, light and shimmer. Not knowing what twinkling shape will move next.

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