Vernazza | Oil on Canvas | 18” x 24” 

Vernazza Harbor

It’s hard to declare any of the hundreds of bucolic coastal towns of Italy “the” iconic Italian coast, but Vernazza makes a lot of those lists for good reason. Granted, the crowds make it down right awful, but the windows of time outside of the hordes, or better yet beyond the tourist season entirely, show how perfection can be achieved. When it comes to painting, however, it gets a bit intimidating.

The reference photo is from a lookout along the from Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza, a beautiful stretch of the Cinque Terre that affords stunning views of the coastline, vineyards, and even some live music along the way. As we neared Vernazza on a cloudless day, the late morning sun lit up the colorful boats of the small harbor. It just had to be painted! 

Vernazza, Italy
(Cinque Terre)

The challenges with this composition were varied and steep. I actually started it in early April, then had to set it aside for a month because it wasn’t progressing as I wanted and a breather can help recharge the artistic part of my brain in ways that sheer obstinance cannot. 

To be clear, it’s very unlikely I will ever paint another landscape from this angle, i.e. from hillside looking down at a steep perspective. Aside from all the unusual shapes it creates and skewing of details that you simply don’t see from a more familiar horizontal angle, it’s really hard to create a painting with depth when THERE IS NONE! I rarely yell in these posts, as I tend to be pretty even tempered and patient, so yelling isn’t part of my communication style, but in this instance I had to yell at myself after I came to the realization after having spent numerous sessions and countless hours on this painting that the reason I was having trouble creating depth was because there was virtually none. When you look down on a landscape at this angle, you absolutely kill the depth because there’s no reference in the distance. Hell, there isn’t even a horizon line, which means many of our painterly tricks to create depth as the scene recedes are non existent. 

Despite the compositional challenge, I’m pleased with the outcome and I love the wide range of colors. And to some degree there is “depth” to the composition, namely in the dark shadows of the boats on the shallow harbor sea floor as well as the buoys floating on the water, helping guide the viewer around the painting. They look like they’re floating on a sea of blue-green, and, well… believe me, they are. Go see for yourself one day.

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