GUEST ARTIST: “I Live And Breathe Venice!” by Helen K. Beacham

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Helen K. Beacham - “Venice: Over and Under”.  Watercolor in a Private Collection. Reproductions available. - Doodlewash

In 1998, my husband and I traveled to Italy for the first time.  We wanted to cram everything into two weeks (Northern Italy to Rome).  I was so excited to be on that plane… I cannot even tell you!

We had set aside just one day in Venice (which far too many tourists tend to do) and it happened to be the worst rain storm and flood they’d had in 30 years.  NO MATTER! I made the very best of it!  While my husband carried an umbrella over my head, I snapped rolls and rolls of film (yes, film in those days!). As we left Venice the next morning, I promised Her I would return one day! I was mesmerized!

Fast forward several years…

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Helen K Beacham - Doodlewash

“Campo Sant’Angelo” – Watercolor, framed size 16”h x 13”w. Available.

After conducting workshops in the States and in Montreal, Canada, I finally started teaching annually in Venice! A dream come true!

Annually since then, I take different small-sized groups of 5 or 6 painters and we stay in an apartment that I rent. To keep myself amused, I rent apartments in different parts of Venice each year.  We live, eat, drink and play where the locals do it!  Staying in Venice for 8 days at a time lets you really, really experience Her to the fullest (although we do venture out to Murano and Burano while we’re there, of course, more on that below).

Personal Observations About My Painting Process

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Helen K. Beacham - Doodlewash

“Rainy Day in Venice” – Watercolor, framed size 12”h x 10”w.  Available.

Pen & Ink:  I consistently reach for my pen & ink when I’m outdoors (not so much in my studio).  I make a few “boundary” marks with my pencil first (making sure I design the overall composition to my liking), then add paint, and finally, almost at the very end, I sketch freely on top of that with pen & ink (I don’t necessarily draw over my pencil lines).

A favorite is my good ole Sharpie Ultrafine point pen (either in black or dark brown, depending). But I also love my Venetian set of sepia ink and fountain pen.  It bleeds a bit when water touches the edge (it’s what I used in “Rainy Day in Venice”…it seemed an appropriate time to use it).

Sepia Ink From Venice

Substrates:  Although I do carry a very thin, softcover sketchbook in my bag, I travel with 300# Arches paper, cut down to 9×12 (I tape it or clip it to cardboard). Because I’m always trying to produce work I can sell (it’s how I make my living, after all). I can take that Venetian sketch back home and hopefully finish it into a salable piece. (Nice when that happens, because a plein air version always has so much life to it!).  I also LOVE to paint on translucent Yupo, but that’s more of a studio substrate for me.  It gives you a much more organic result, as compared to painting more smoothly on paper or watercolor canvas (see “Italian Colors, Burano” below).

Application of paint:  In my studio, I paint with many layers of color, in order to build up my values.  Outdoors, there’s no time for that.  I have to assess the values, make bolder choices, and capture them before the light changes.

Example Of A Studio Work-in-Progress

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More Stuff I Love To Do Around Venice

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor By Helen K. Beacham - Doodlewash

“Italian Colors (Burano)” – Watercolor on Yupo, framed size 27”h x 21”w.  Available.

There are 2 islands in the Venetian Lagoon that I always must visit.  The first is Murano (10 minutes by ferry), where they blow glass.  Another is Burano (30 minutes away).  It’s a very colorful fishing village and the local ladies are known worldwide for their lacemaking skills, passed down from generation to generation.

In Hindsight

I guess I manage to keep myself “alive” and challenged by using a variety of substrates, different water-based painting materials and even subject matter (I paint much more than just Venice).  BUT, my focus for 36 years has been on sketching and watercolor.  At some point, you have to hone it in, if you’re going to improve your skills.  What do you all think?

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Helen K. Beacham - Doodlewash

“Venetian Glass I”.  Watercolor, image size 12”h x 16”w.  Available.

Thank you, Charlie, for this invitation to introduce myself.  I look forward to returning the favor on my own blog real soon!  Sign up to receive my blog posts and follow me at the links below so you don’t miss a thing!

Happy painting!

Helen K. Beacham
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Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!

21 Comments
  1. Annie Unwin 11 months ago

    Oh I love your style! So cheerful. Makes me want to travel there! Great job.

    • John Cavan 11 months ago

      Venice is stunning, I really recommend visiting and for more than a day.

  2. Sandra Strait 11 months ago

    It was fascinating to see your studio work in progress!

  3. Rod Fletcher 11 months ago

    Oh I love those reflections. Thank you for sharing

  4. Thank you for sharing your passion for both watercolors and Venice, Helen! I particularly like your example of a studio work-in-progress. You’re really great cityscape watercolor artist. Keep the good work up!

  5. Laura (PA Pict) 11 months ago

    Thank you for sharing your relationship with Venice and the way that area inspires you. Your art work is beautiful. I am especially impressed with the way you render water and reflections.

  6. Jennifer McLean 11 months ago

    happily following you now. I just love your beautiful style, some day I hope to learn how to do buildings like that and what a dream job to be able to teach what you love in a city you also love.

  7. Patricia Katz 11 months ago

    Love those European lampposts! Great to read your story.

  8. Susan Cuss 11 months ago

    Thank you for sharing your love of watercolours and Venice! Love all the warm tones in your paintings. I’m off to check out your blog.

  9. Fantine Ponter 11 months ago

    Oh My! Beautiful work. Venice is now been added to my bucket list…

  10. Pamela 11 months ago

    Beautiful work,,your reflections and light work are exceptional…Thank you for sharing your story.

  11. Thomas Blanchard 11 months ago

    Oh that Venice bridge painting is just amazing!

  12. Debra Keirce 11 months ago

    Seeing Venice through Helens eyes was such a special experience! One of the life memories I cherish.

  13. creatingincolors 11 months ago

    I too am glad that Charlie introduced you introduce yourself. Your paintings are so beautiful! I’ve always been enchanted by Venice. Now I know for sure that I want to go someday. Your group trips sound fabulous. I look forward to seeing more of your paintings.

  14. chrisfraserb 11 months ago

    I had to smile Helen when I saw your pen and ink from Venice. This is something that I purchased there myself…although I haven’t used used it yet! 😊Thank you for your slice of Venice and your inspiration words. Beautiful!

  15. Janneke Booister 11 months ago

    Thanks for showing your beautiful work! 🙂

  16. anamika808creative 11 months ago

    Hey…those pieces are amazing…!!!

  17. Elisainnormalland 11 months ago

    Oh this is so beautiful!

  18. The Naked Koala 11 months ago

    Love this! And what gorgeous paintings! 🙂

  19. Sharon Nolfi 11 months ago

    Beautiful work depicting one of my favorite cities.

  20. Teri Casper 11 months ago

    Love your story and beautiful paintings. Thank you for sharing.

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