An Italian Dream

“An Italian Dream” is drawn with Neocolor 1 and coloured pencils. 39.5 x 32 cm.  November 2019.

On a hazy Sunday morning in the northern spring of 2019 we sit on a park bench on Lido and look out over the lagoon.  A young seagull allows himself to be photographed and even gives me a minute  to studiously compose before flying away.  In perfect tune with the universe (compositionally-speaking) a vaporetto  appears.  In the watery distance San Giorgio Maggiore Benedictine church and campanile hover mirage-like.


One hundred and seventy five years ago (in 1844) Charles Dickens took some time out from novel writing.  He and his family moved to Italy for a few months.  From this sojourn came “Pictures from Italy” (first published in 1846), an illuminating and witty account of his Italian adventures.  Charles Dickens was so hypnotized by Venice that he reminisces as if he had dreamed it all.   The Venetian chapter of the book is called “An Italian Dream“.  I trust CD doesn’t mind if I borrow his romantic title for my drawing.

I quote three paragraphs from “An Italian Dream“…

“The glory of the day that broke upon me in this Dream; its freshness, motion, buoyancy; its sparkles of the sun in water; its clear blue sky and rustling air; no waking words can tell.  But, from my window, I looked down on boats and barks; on masts, sails, cordage, flags; on groups of busy sailors, working at the cargoes of these vessels; on wide quays, strewn with bales, casks, merchandise of many kinds; on great ships, lying near at hand in stately indolence; on islands, crowned with gorgeous domes and turrets: and where golden crosses glittered in the light, atop of wondrous churches, springing from the sea!”


“In the luxurious wonder of so rare a dream, I took but little heed of time, and had but little understanding of its flight.  But there were days and nights in it; and when the sun was high, and when the rays of lamps were crooked in the running water, I was still afloat, I thought: plashing the slippery walls and houses with the cleavings of the tide, as my black boat, borne upon it, skimmed along the streets.”

One hundred and seventy five years ago we weren’t talking about climate change or rising sea levels, yet Dickens concludes his chapter thus…

“But close about the quays and churches, palaces and prisons: sucking at their walls, and welling up into the secret places of the town: crept the water always.  Noiseless and watchful: coiled round and round it, in its many folds, like an old serpent: waiting for the time, I thought, when people should look down into its depths for any stone of the old city that had claimed to be its mistress”

“I have, many and many a time, thought since, of this strange Dream upon the water: half-wondering if it lie there yet, and if its name be VENICE.”


5 thoughts on “An Italian Dream

  1. anna warren portfolio

    First I have to say how much I like this drawing. The composition is SO satisfying, the combination of crisp speed sign, soft-feathered gull and misty distance work together beautifully. Venice is a city that has cast a spell over so many people, especially writers and artists over the years and clearly Dickens not least! His writing is flowery but evocative and still accurate for the same place nearly 200 years on. The quotes from his book add to the drawing in an indefinable way.

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Hi Anna, I often reflect on how no artwork is “in the bag” until it is done. The first few days of this one were touch and go as I struggled with all that sky (big areas of plain colour are not easy with coloured pencils). I was uncomfortable and a part of me said “stop”. However I worked through the dis-ease and about the third or fourth day I saw potential. I started to enjoy working on the soft buildings – and for the rest of it, the drawing was pure joy.
      Nor did I see potential for a drawing for several months as I flipped past the source photo in my album. It is funny how one is not able to “see” artistic potential from a source until the time is right, whatever that time is. So there is something indefinable and non tamable about inspiration.

      1. anna warren portfolio

        Persistence really does pay off doesn’t it, so often an artwork is telling you it’s all wrong early on, but if you can get through that often it becomes a favourite. With my works I find I often set them aside for a period of time – occasionally years! – and come back with a new eye. This one definitely deserved the gritted teeth through the interminable (but beautiful) sky.

  2. juliepodstolski Post author

    Setting aside is a REALLY good idea but that takes self control. Now and then (very rarely) I have set a drawing aside and come back to it much later. But mostly the instinct (sometimes overwhelming) is to let rip.
    On another note, Anna, I think it is today you are going away. Have an excellent trip!!!

    1. anna warren portfolio

      I must admit – usually when I set a work aside it is in desperation, or simply not knowing where to go next rather than through any self discipline! Yes, we are now in Cowra, which is a lovely small town on the Lachlan River. I had hoped to write before I left, but time beat me! Hopefully I will be able to while we are away, but if not do have a wonderful trip yourself! A lovely time of year for it.


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