Joan LaRue loves Venice. But that’s not her favorite place to paint. She knows of a place that has many of Venice’s charms, but is cheaper, quainter, and just generally more manageable.
The Tucson, Arizona, artist noticed that the legendary plein air painter Edgar Payne had painted a fishing village named Chioggia, even featuring the town in his influential book Composition of Outdoor Painting. She decided to seek it out, and she talked a few of her artist friends into accompanying her to Chioggia, sight unseen. That last part worried LaRue a little bit. What if the village, which is located about 25 miles south of Venice, was terrible?
“It turned out really, really well,” she says. “Chioggia has all of the charm of Venice, but it doesn’t have all the historic buildings and landmarks — and the people there are just glad to have you around. They got used to seeing me and they got to know me and say hello. I felt like less of a tourist and more like a part of the town.”
LaRue and her friends found a modest hotel and discovered that they could walk a few blocks and paint canals, bridges, sailboats, a cathedral, a marketplace, charming buildings, and lots of water. “There was a harbor scene with a few lights sparkling in the water, and when the sun first came up in the morning and at sunset, it was just delicious,” says LaRue.
The artist reports that some of the boats that participate in the water parade in Venice are harbored in Chioggia, and that she and her painting friends found some examples of “golden-filled sailboats” to depict in their pieces. Back in the United States, LaRue says her paintings of water scenes sold the best. She looks forward to going back to Chioggia.
“When you’ve been at it as long as I have, you have a lot of favorite places,” says the septuagenarian LaRue. “I have a few favorites in California and in Italy, but lately, Chioggia is one of my favorite places to paint.”