Rita Ford Jones, "Another Venice Place," oil, 18 x 20 inches

It’s not surprising that Venice, Italy, is renowned for much more than its unique geographic location, food, and iconic gondolas. Indeed, for centuries scholars, aristocrats, royalty, and — of course — artists have all become enamored with the jewel-like colors that dance off the city’s canals and pastel-colored buildings.

Nearly all the artists who have called “The Floating City” home are noted for their use and mastery of color, especially with regard to Renaissance masters, including the Bellini family, the Bassano family, Giorgione, and Titian, to name just a few. Artist Rita Ford Jones has for many years found herself swept up by Venice’s sights and sounds, continually traveling there for painting, and much more.

Photo from Venice that inspired “Another Venice Place”

“Venice is a wonderland, with patches of color that change as the sun moves over the buildings,” Jones begins. “This brings into focus bright sunlit corners and wonderful facades of a thousand different architectural designs. There are colorful flowers hanging from most all the balconies that also may have clothes hanging across the canals and walkways from building to building. The darkness in hidden narrow walkways between the tall leaning buildings suggests all kinds of mysterious things that may have happened in them for hundreds of years.

Rita Ford Jones, “Canal,” 2006, oil on canvas

“I love watching the movement of the sparkling water lapping up against the bottoms of the buildings. It’s always busy, eating away at the bricks and plaster, causing chunks to fall off and bring into view a former color that a previous generation had enjoyed. I love to paint and even sketch the water. I also enjoy the boat rides around to the other islands, discovering that each has its own colors and personality.”

Rita Ford Jones, “Gondola,” 2006, oil on canvas

Jones goes on, “I listened to the people talking to each other in their musical language. I actually sang in Italian for my voice class. As a piano teacher, I was tuned into all the musical sounds of Venice. Even the revving up of the engines going from boat stop to boat stop was a sound that I came to enjoy. I cherish the memory of that special unique sound.

Rita Ford Jones, “Abstracts in Plaster,” 2005, oil
Rita Ford Jones, “Flower Box,” 2009, oil

“The church bells clanging early and late were sounds that became familiar all over Italy. Sometimes as I passed by a plain-looking building I could hear the large sounds of a wonderful pipe organ concert going on. A few times, I would sneak in and hear a pre-concert practice session. The people hug, kiss each other’s cheeks, and are extremely vocal. They were friendly to me and really did like it when I tried to speak a few words in pre-kindergarten Italian.

Rita Ford Jones, “Window Boxes (from oldest surviving synagogue in Europe),” 2009, watercolor

“I have often wondered about the difference between walking around my beautiful ‘Sunny Side’ of Louisville, and walking around Venice. My hometown is just across the wide Ohio River in Jefferson. I have driven around to favorite areas to sketch and paint quite a few watercolors here in Jeffersonville. The mayor of Jefferson held art competitions for many years with the theme about the historical buildings in the city. I won first place five times, and those works hang in the city building where the mayor has his office.

Rita Ford Jones, “Gondola Repair Shop,” 2005, oil, 18 x 20 inches

“There is a wide difference between making art in the two cities that I have tried to figure out for the last 31 years. It could be that I felt quite safe in Venice, and there were no cars to come speeding at you. I could stop anywhere and draw, take a photo, or even paint a watercolor. I watched other artists painting in oil and they told me they come back every year for a week or month to paint a new batch of paintings to take back home. No one here in Jefferson would bother me, except to look at what I was doing — and we would chat a few moments — but even with the hundreds of unique old houses with gardens of beautiful eye-catching flowers, it just is not Venice.

Rita Ford Jones, “Snail Church,” 2009, oil and black marker
Rita ford Jones at the Academia Bridge

“A fellow student, born in Venice, told me, ‘Rita, all artists go to Venice to paint!’ She said, ‘You must go there.’ I never dreamed that ‘her Venice’ would become my favorite place to paint. But it certainly has!”

To learn more about Rita Ford Jones, visit her webpage here.

This article was featured in PleinAir Today, a weekly e-newsletter from PleinAir magazine. To start receiving PleinAir Today for free, click here.


  1. Hello Andrew,
    Just found the article today. I really like the paintings you chose. Thank you so much for doing a fine job.
    I am painting really long hours, trying to finish a painting I started 36 years ago. The Garden of Eden. A long slow process.
    I co-sponsored a week long workshop in Selersburg, Indiana, with Daniel Green as the instructor. I was so amazed to see him, a very good portrait of him. He really has his teaching methods honed down to perfection.
    Thanks again..for all the help you did for me, to put together something that I am very proud of.
    Rita Ford Jones, My”Favorite place to paint”…Venice, Italy

  2. sorry Andrew, Daniel Green did not do a workshop in Selersburg….did I say that? It was in New Albany, Indiana. I cannot imagine how that happened. So Sorry. Joyce Sweet Bryant was the other artist who co-sponsored the work shop for Mr. Green. She is the President of our Floyd Co. Crit Club.


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