My Online Venice Inspired Watercolor Workshop ~

~ Let's Paint a Venetian Palace ~

"Let's Paint a Venetian Palace" is a unique online watercolor workshop that I am excited to be offering.  You will learn my steps for creating the above painting in fun, engaging, non intimidating, yet structured environment.  

Venice has been a favorite subject for many artists, past and present, and so I am thrilled to be offering this.  This subject illustrates some of my favorite tips and techniques for painting with watercolors, and I look forward to sharing those with you.

More information can be found on the following webpage: http://sophiakhanstudio.com/venice-watercolor-workshop


Plein Air NYC

You may not know this about me.  My first career was in Historic Preservation.  I 'climbed' the scaffolding of tall building facades in NYC, up close to stone carvings and carefully formulated mortars, colored bricks, cast iron, terra cotta, and copper ornamentations, determining what could stay, what had failed the test of time, and what could be carefully crafted 'back to life.' 

I loved it.  I loved it because it connected me to a tradition of valuing, cherishing, and holding on to what has existed long before me.  And because it combined my interests in architecture, monuments, history, culture, and craft, in a city I loved. 

Although I no longer live in NY and my interests have evolved over the years, leading me to where I am today with pursuing my art, I often go back to visiting NYC.  This time, I decided to make an effort to do some plein air work and chose the site of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine for my creative excursion. 

Working here out in the open air, is quite different from studio work.  Being up front and close to your subject, being able to walk around it to find the perfect location, the curious onlookers, the wind in your hair, the changing shadows on the subject, the nearby sounds, which in this case were traffic, conversations of elderly people outside the nearby nursing home, music being blasted in a car parked beside where I sketched, and the repetition of the church bells when I went to go paint on the grounds.  And of course there is also the immediacy of time and the limited palette and art supplies on hand.....all part of both the challenge and joy of painting outdoors.

Back in the days of preservation work, I performed 'inspections' from high up above the facades of structures; many of which contributed to giving the city a sense of the past, all the while the hustle and bustle of city life below spoke of the immediate, the now, and the future.  The juxtaposition always struck me, always intrigued me.  

And so it was with delight that I encountered, by chance, an interesting installation when I went inside the cathedral, which also spoke of contrasts. Two Phoenix sculptures, by Chinese artist Xu Bing, were installed 'flying' in the central nave of the cathedral. Made of recycled found material and illuminated by tiny lights, they are a lovely foil to the built form and construction of the cathedral.  Facing the entrance rather than facing the altar creates a dynamic play between the front and back of the cathedral, as the in-flight gesture of the birds is contrasted with the receding perspective towards the altar.  

The end of my visit, saw me in the cathedral grounds where I blissfully sat on benches enjoying the view and lovely weather,  while working on two small watercolors.


On another note I am excited to share that my Watercolor postcard, Venetian Whispers, is currently on view as part of an exhibition in Vicenza, titled Homage to Venice and the Cities and Places of Art in the World.  Do stop by if you are in the area, or happen to be traveling there. (Info below) 

Photos from the first exhibition location, a cloister in Venice, can be seen here.

(This post first appeared on my online diary on 6/10/13)


Inner Grace, Palermo

Inner Grace, Palermo

watercolor on Arches paper
copyright © Sophia Khan

In Italy, time graces place with meaning.  What was once a pagan temple, later becomes a church. What was once a private palace, now opens its doors as a museum.  Other places and monuments stand the 'test of time' being firmly grounded in their original functions as cathedrals or amphitheaters, and such; the weathering of their stones being what gives them the mark of time.  

Maybe we travel to places with layers of history, to know all of us; all of what makes us who we are including our own past, who we are now, and what we seek for our futures.  Yes, we travel for adventure, to escape from our everyday, but at the same time there is perhaps an underlying calling that guides where we end up going.  There is perhaps something more than beauty that invites us to the scenery we peruse online or in magazines as possible travel destinations.  

One of my trips to Italy was dedicated solely to visiting Palermo.  Why Palermo, you might ask. The layering of course. Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Norman; so many diverse cultures settled and ruled this prime location.  The resulting Architecture is a unique layering of the various styles each brought with them.  And this being something I could relate to as a reflection of myself.  

One of the places I had come upon during this trip was the Regional Archaeological Museum of Palermo, which was originally a monastery.  Its courtyards were one of the most beautiful I have seen in all my travels.  Although I must admit, it's hard to come across a courtyard that is not inviting. I've written before on how I see courtyards symbolically as 'containers' of our desires, hopes, and dreams.  As such one can see them as centers.  Centers of our innermost cores.

Each of the two courtyards contain a central pond accented by a sculpture.  One courtyard is graced with a sculpture of Triton.  The other, with that of an angel.  I found the angel quite fitting to the original use of the space as a monastic complex.  

I love the idea of archaeological remnants of the past carefully displayed in the halls and rooms of a space whose function has evolved over time.  And I hope that my painting conveys some of the grace, elegance, and inner calm that emits from this beautiful space layered with meaning, layered with time.

Have you encountered a place during your own travels that has changed in its use, in a way that gives it new meaning. One that stood out from the rest, and remains memorable to you as it now stands.  Or perhaps like me, you have traveled somewhere that you find is reflective of who you are.  I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below, if you are so inclined to share.... 

And if you would enjoy 'Inner Grace' for your own home, or that of a loved one, Limited Edition prints are available here and the Original Watercolor is available here.

Wishing you much grace, beauty, and wonder in your current surroundings and wherever else you many wander be it in travel, in memory, or in longing,


(this post first appeared on my online diary on 5/9/14)


Venetian House of Gold

Venetian House of Gold

watercolor on Arches paper
copyright © Sophia Khan

The Ca d'Oro, or House of Gold in Venice, once gilded in gold with ultramarine blue accents, now stands bare but still striking in its beauty.  The colors of this watercolor are an ode to that time, that memory of what it once was, as well as expressing the joyfulness and dreamlike air of this magical city.

Whether we have been there ourselves, or dream of finding ourselves within the place whose images tease at our longing to explore its maze like arms, we know that the city holds something that exists somewhere beyond the everyday words and feelings.

Venice; a city, a life, a culture built on water, is a place of possibility, never ending possibility.  We travel there in our thoughts or as travelers to know of this, to taste this, and to return as never before, holding on to this.   

Although you may recognize this as a subject I paint often, I cannot steer away from it for too long. The magic of catching a glimpse of this majestic facade while riding along the Grand Canal is one that remains within me.  I hope that it will always remain the source of inspiration and possibility that has lead my art in directions otherwise unknown to me.  

If you would enjoy the Venetian House of Gold in your home or as a gift for a lover of Venice, please see the links below:

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share your thoughts on it, or on your own love for Venice in the comments below. 


Whispers of Venice

Whispers of Venice
watercolor on Arches paper
copyright © Sophia Khan

Why do images of open water, a vast ocean, a distant horizon intrigue us so?  Is it the expansiveness of possibility in our own lives that we project onto it?  It is the lure of the unknown? The mystery of our futures? The hope of discovering something in that distant future?

It may indeed be one or all of these, but there is also a beauty, a calm, a tranquility and restfulness to such images of vast bodies of water.  They do not overwhelm us in their impact. They simply and gently invite us and we cannot help but gaze on, as if in search of something; an answer, a foresight, a validation of the journey we have already embarked on. 

In my previous post, I described the urge to paint only water and shared my resulting watercolor sketches.  I feel those moments of calm, sheer pleasure, and the lack of urgency were the foundations for the watercolor I am sharing here.

I feel very content with where this is taking me and feel I may linger here a bit longer; either by using the same color scheme for a different view, or by painting the same scenery again with different colors....I will let things unfold as they will and look forward to sharing more with you here.

I am also exciting to say I am now selling original watercolors of three Venetian themed paintings, which can be viewed here.


Ebb & Flow: Venetian Waters Watercolor Studies

Venetian Waters Study 1

Venetian Waters Study 2

Venetian Waters Study 2
with color manipulation in Photoshop

Venetian Waters Study 3

Venetian Waters Study 4

Copyright © Sophia Khan

There is an ebb and flow to the life of an artist.  At least there is one for me. There are cycles, moments of intense creativity, ideas beaming, studio getting messy and hurriedly being cleaned for the next painting.  And then there are moments that ask you to wait.  Wait for what wants to be created from you, perhaps through you. I am not blocked as an artist when I am here, I am listening for guidance; clues in the world around me, in my thoughts, in my memories....

It is in those later moments that the above small watercolor studies were painting. I felt a need, a pull, to go to Venetian waters, and paint only that.  A need that I cannot, nor do I need to name.  Perhaps it was from a place of calm and quiet in my own life; something meditative.  Either way, it simply is.  And I think those moments are beautiful, regardless of the results.  Those moments speak of a direct correlation between art and soul.  Something more mystical and mysterious than perhaps the thoroughly worked out, sketched, analyzed painting.

These studies have actually lead me to something very interesting I am currently working on and would love to share here in the future.  And perhaps with these, I was preparing myself for that next step that I am currently on.  It is a beautiful step, one that I am grateful for, and one that is bringing a new calm and lightness to my current body of work.  

Wishing you much warmth and beauty where you may happen to be in your journey,


Watercolor Washes & Studies with Jean Haines

The expectation to paint a frameable finished watercolor each time you preciously carve out the space and time to paint can be a hindrance to one's creative growth.  This is one of the many beautiful lessons I have gained from my watercolor studies with Jean Haines.

I've had the wonderful opportunity to study with Jean for a second time, earlier this year.  Studying with her is both refreshing, inspiring, motivating and incredibly fun, while at the same time encouraging you to better your own skills.  While Jean has her own unique style of painting, she also has the ability to pinpoint everyone's individual strengths and provide just the right amount of challenge to take you to the next step of your journey as an artist.

I first contacted Jean in 2011, when I learned of her incredible work.  I was thrilled to hear back from her and to eventually learn of her workshops in the USA.  I knew I could learn much from her, and I had booked right away. 

And learn much from her I did indeed. 

Perhaps the most important lesson I walked away from her workshops with is the joy and beauty of the watercolor wash.  Jean encourages doing loose washes as warm up exercises prior to starting a finished work.  She likens it to working out, where you wouldn't start lifting the heavy weights without warming up with the lighter ones first.  

Allowing water and pigment to flow and interact freely without any preconceived visual ideas of what you want to happen, is also an extremely serene and peaceful process, almost meditative.  Interestingly, it has a connection to one of my philosophies towards life itself;  not always setting rigid goals for yourself and allowing the beauty of  life to unfold and shift with your interests, passions, and dreams as they evolve over time.

I like my watercolors to be a combination of planning, and allowing some of the magic of the medium to occur during the process of painting.  The watercolor wash is the perfect start for this process.   I'll have to be honest and say some of my watercolors, which I might consider frameable, ended up being warm up exercises painted on the backs of other washes.   By freeing yourself from any pressure, you often end up with so much more then you expected.

Many thanks to Jean, for this gift.  If you happen to work in the wonderful medium of watercolor, and would like to learn more about washes, you can have a look at Jean's wonderful DVD, in which she starts by demonstrating these.   Another great resource for washes is the work of watercolor artist Jane Minter.

(using Jean Haines' "Venetian technique" as explained in her latest book)

For now, I have purchased some new and exciting watercolors that I learned of from Jean and am eager to continue experimenting with them.

Wishing you a wonderful holiday ahead, and a lovely start to the new year.  New Year...perhaps it is no coincidence I am reflecting on the preparatory wash as the new year is ahead.  Beginnings are wonderful moments for reflection, inspiration, calm, and tranquility from which to ever so elegantly move forward.  As with anything else in life, and perhaps especially creativity, this is the most beautiful way to approach and begin the journey be it for the moment, the day, the years, or a lifetime.

 A link to my review of Jean's latest book can be seen here.


Some New Works and my Shop Opening

Ca' d'Oro, Venice, Celebration 
watercolor on Arches paper
copyright © Sophia Khan

Venice, Arrival
watercolor on Arches paper
copyright © Sophia Khan

Monreale Cloister, capital detail
watercolor on Arches paper
copyright © Sophia Khan

It's been quite a while since I have posted here.  I must admit, most of my blogging has been taking place over at my website.  But I did want to update my work here as well, to share a bit of my latest creative endeavors.  Above are three recent watercolors.  I've experimenting a bit with some new colors and techniques and, I must admit, am quite pleased with where this is taking me so far.  

Venice has been a favorite subject for some time, but I can never tire of seeing it and painting it in new ways. Some thoughts of Venice can be seen in my diary here.

The cloister in Monreale is a new subject for me, and I've enjoyed painting the intricacies and details of the beautiful capital.  My reflections on this can be seen in my diary here.

I am also excited to say that I have opened up two new online shops.  One on my website here.  The other, for smaller prints, on Etsy here.  If you are interested in making a purchase on my website, please do use coupon code HOLIDAY15%4U (valid through next weekend).

I hope you are enjoying the start of the holiday season and wishing you enjoy your weekend.


Ca' d'Oro Venice Sketch

© Sophia Khan

A crop of a small watercolor sketch of the Ca' d'Oro in Venice, done as a study for a larger painting

If you are new here, be sure to have a look at my website for more work here.


New Website

Royal Palace doorknocker, Fez
© Sophia Khan

I am excited to announce the launch of my new fine art website here.  I have additional plans for it in the future as well, but this is where I am right now.  I will still be blogging and sharing my work here, and I continue to look forward to interactions with followers, visitors, and fellow creatives.


Alhambra Palace, Granada II

© Sophia Khan
watercolor on Arches paper

Several weeks ago, I took a wonderful watercolor workshop with Jean Haines where I started a painting of the Alhambra Palace.  I got some great feedback from Jean and based upon that, I did this second painting of it at home (done without a pencil sketch).  I am not sure if it is complete, but I will let it be for now.

New here? Be sure to visit my Fine Art website here.


Casa de Pilatos, Seville

© Sophia Khan
watercolor on Arches paper

New here? Be sure to stop by my Fine Art website here.


watercolor washes

© Sophia Khan
watercolor on Arches paper

I have been working on and off on a highly detailed watercolor for quite some time. Beginning the day with these watercolor washes has been a wonderful way to relax, enjoy the slow process of the wash, be patient, and simply loosen up.  

I also enjoy these as it's wonderful to begin with something not knowing exactly where it will lead.