Watercolor Immersion in Venice

DATES: 10/12/2024 - 10/19/2024
PRICE: $2,950.00

Robert Leedy is a Florida painter who concentrates in the medium of watercolor. He holds a BFA in Painting & Drawing from Valdosta State University. He is a member of the National Watercolor Society and The Florida Watercolor Society. A big portion of his work is done en plein aire and he is active with The First Coast Plein Air Painters in North Florida.

Robert regularly teaches classes and workshops at his studio and at Reddi-Arts, The Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra Beach and The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens. In 2017, Robert was voted one of the Best Art Teachers in Jacksonville by Expertise.com.

Upon graduation from college, Robert worked in graphic design and the fine wine industry before painting full time. He has lived throughout the Caribbean, Europe and South America and traveled extensively before returning to his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida in 2010.  He has exhibited his work throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. His painting, “Ocean & Ahern” was published in Splash 14.

Currently he shows his work at Southlight Gallery in Jacksonville, Aviles Gallery in St. Augustine and Casco Bay Artisans Gallery in Portland, Maine. Robert works on location and out of his studio in The CoRK Arts District in Jacksonville’s Riverside neighborhood.

* Robert Leedy is also a former student of Il Chiostro in Venice, Lake Garda and Tuscany.

Artist’s Statement:

My paintings are a celebration of the intrinsic qualities of watercolor – fluidity, transparency, vibrant and granulating color.  My goal is that viewers immediately recognize the works as watercolor. I also strive to pique their visual interest.

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My response to light is quite evident in my work. I think that is a big factor in what draws people to it. Color & light are the important common denominators in my work as a watercolor painter. Whether the subject is architectural, figurative, a landscape, still life or non-representational – bold, often pure, luminous color reigns throughout the composition.

The unpredictability of the medium attracts me. I enjoy the unexpected decisions and challenges that arise during the painting process. I enjoy the discovery process and quirky nature of the medium and give it room to lead the direction of the painting to some extent. Keeping it spontaneous and open for forks in the road, I am merely a guide for a wonderful medium.

“Robert Leedy’s use of color, technique and fun composition captured my imagination. I learned so much not only about watercolor technique but also color and composition.  His critiques have always been positive and very constructive and he has encouraged me to love to keep painting.  Painting with Robert is always fun as he has a great sense of humor and sweet disposition.” – Rebbecca Mentz, Student

“Robert Leedy is an accomplished, award-winning watercolorist and a great teacher. He’s articulate and generous in sharing his wide-ranging knowledge of watercolor techniques – all in an effort to encourage students to enhance their own styles, rather than mimic his.” – Jessie Cook, Student

I started Robert’s classes relatively new to art, much less watercolor.  Robert pushed me (gently!) to become an intermediate painter. He is positive, charming and a great storyteller.  If you have a chance to take lessons from him, I encourage you to do so and I know you will enjoy the experience! – Connie Slimmon, Student

Watercolor in the city of water – Venice

One of the best ways to jump-start your creativity is to spend a week in a beautiful, new environment painting and exploring the surroundings on a daily basis. Free from the usual, day-to-day demands back home, your mind will be open and focused to learning new things and your creativity will flow forth.

Venice is just that place – a unique, creative environment unlike anywhere else in the world, with canals, cafes, neighborhood squares, colorful architecture and a history of grandeur.  A week of painting & sketching in watercolor there will leave you inspired and re-energized.

The Rialto at Sunset, photo by Cindy Bartosek

This exciting workshop will be a well-rounded immersive experience with a three-part focus; sketching, painting, and art appreciation. In addition to creating our own art, we will take advantage of the world class museums in Venice and view historical and contemporary artworks.   We promise a unique artistic opportunity that only Venice can provide.  

Passing Gondola, black and white photo by Linda Mironti

About the Workshop:  Watercolor is the perfect travel companion and it is Robert Leedy’s favorite choice of painting mediums. Robert will guide you through the medium during your stay in this fascinating city.

I really enjoyed and appreciated Robert’s classes. I learned so much. He has such an interesting combination of ways to loosen up combined with progress in technical skill. I loved watching his demos. I feel I learned the most from those. The way he layers color and “drops in” color is so interesting. He is a fabulous artist and a very good teacher! – Amelia Duddington, Student

Robert’s painters from 2022

Great subject matter will be all around you: water, architecture, still life’s and figures. The class will be mostly plein air work and working with watercolor in sketchbooks, but we’ll also have an indoor studio to paint if the weather is inclement.

All of the elements and principles of successful watercolor painting will be covered. Robert will help you edit and simplify the scene before you. Drawing, design, and composition will be touched upon as well as basic color theory, watercolor technique and brushwork. You will learn how to mix and mingle color along with taking advantage of color granulation. Robert will help you loosen up your painting with bold color and fluid mark making. The emphasis is on individual instruction and personal style so, both beginners and seasoned painters will benefit from this week of watercolor immersion.

Colorful island of Burano

Our painting adventure will include lessons and painting time at our home and excursions to colorful Burano as well as local museums and galleries.

Your typical morning will begin with a buffet breakfast then a demo or lesson on watercolor techniques and a discussion of the day’s artistic goals; a morning painting session for several hours follows.  On many days we will then go out on excursion to paint on location, take photos to paint from later or just to sit in a campo with a cappuccino and watch the action around the canals.  Most days there will be a late afternoon critique of the day’s work before dinner.  There will also be opportunities for nocturnal painting.

What a valuable and extraordinary experience it was to paint with and learn from Robert… It was obvious from the beginning that Robert is passionate about watercolor and teaching. I was so excited every morning about putting pencil and brush to paper, that I didn’t really want to stop. However, Il Chiostro, loves to share their beloved spots in Italy… 
There is no doubt in my mind that I am a better painter after this trip, though maybe a few pounds heavier.  – Leslie Kruzicki

Accommodations: The week will be spent in the a brightly renovated ex-convent on the Zattere in the Dorsoduro sector. When you register you can choose either a single or double room with ensuite bathroom in the complex where our studio is.  Rooms are clean and comfortable, but simply furnished.  If you would prefer to find your own accommodations in a nearby hotel or AirBnB, no problem.  Just click that option on the registration page.
We’ll enjoy traditional cuisine at local restaurants or prepared by our personal chef. It will be an ideal place to improve your painting skills.

Watercolor by Robert Leedy

General Activities: Our first activity will be an orientation at 6pm on the first day followed by dinner with the group.  After that, most activities for the week, like museum visits and an intimate walking tour of the back canals of this ancient city, will be organized around the workshop. It’s easy to be independent in this entirely walkable city, but all participants will come together for meals and excursions. Then, at the end of the week we’ll stage an exhibit of the work to share our personal impressions of enigmatic Venice.

Dinners: During the week we will have 5 dinners together. To experience a good cross-section of typical Venetian cuisine we will sample diverse neighborhood trattorie and Michael and Linda will host our group for two home-cooked meals with ingredients we find at the outdoor market. Two nights of the week you will be on your own to follow your nose to restaurants or concerts or the opera or whatever else might pique your curiosity. There is plenty of time for independent exploration.

Robert demonstrating in watercolor

Price: $2,950* p/p
Non-painter partners/friends are always welcome for a reduced fee of $2,650


  • Single room supplement, add $475 (limited number available)
  • Find your own accommodations, reduce fee by $800.  (Click the “Accommodations” tab above for some of our nearby suggestions.)

* Price valid only until January 1, 2024


  • 7 nights at refurbished convent – double or single (with supplement) room with ensuite bathroom and shower (Note: departure is after breakfast on the final Saturday.  The last class activity will be Friday evening.)
  • Daily buffet breakfast and 5 dinners at local restaurants, including wine
  • Workshop tuition, daily classes
  • Guided art history tour of Venice with local art historian
  • Selected excursions with class

    Circular Venice, photo by Andy Holtzman

Price does not include:

  • Airfare
  • Lunch
  • Independent meals and sight-seeing
  • Workshop materials
  • Local transportation: vaporettos, water taxis

To Register:  just click on the Sign Up Now button.  A deposit of $500 is required to secure your spot in the workshop.  Payment can be made on line with a credit card, or you can follow the instructions to send in your registration and payment by mail. Once we receive your deposit we will send you a formal Registration Confirmation with further information about the program. You will receive 2-3 other correspondences by email prior to the workshop with information about Italy, a supplies list and an electronic invoice for the balance. Final Balance is due by August 15th. Any time prior to your arrival, if you have questions about anything regarding the trip or the program, you can contact us by email or phone and we’ll be happy to assist you.

Contact us for more information: info@ilchiostro.com or speak to us live at 800-990-3506.

For our week in Venice we will be staying at the renovated monastery of Don Orione Artigianelli directly on the Giudecca Canal.  The complex is built around a series of quiet cloisters where the only sound is of the bells ringing on the hour.

Rooms are single or double, simply furnished, but each with its own private, modern bathroom.

Breakfast is served each morning in the dining room on the main floor.  We will use one of their conference rooms as our studio.

Convent Alternatives:

If you would prefer to find your own accommodations in Venice, that is not a problem.  Just select Program only-no accommodations when registering and the room fee will be deducted from your workshop fee.  There are many options for hotels or AirBnB apartments that you can research.  Here are some of our hotel suggestions with web sites and number of stars.  They are all in the Dorsoduro section on the same side of the Accademia Bridge as the convent.  Contact them directly through their web sites:  [NOTE:  our studios for classes will be located in the convent so you might want to stay nearby.]

Very Near the Convent

On the Zattere

On Side Canals

Near La Salute:

Inexpensive alternative (save money – less expensive than the convent):

  • Casa Accademia, ex-convent beside Hotel American (not to be confused with Pensione Accademia above), 45 euros/single, 55 euros/ double, cheap, convenient: casaccademia.it

To arrive either you can fly directly into Venice or into Milan and then take the train to Venice. Specific arrival instructions will follow, but from the train station you can take the vaporetto and get off at the Zattere.  From the airport you can take the Alilaguna ferry (Blue Line) and get off at the Zattere.  In either case, Artigianelli will be right in front of you.  We’ll send you easy walking directions so you won’t get lost.  Remember that Venice is a walking city, so pack light because you will have to pull your luggage down the alleys and over the bridges – there’s just no getting around that.

Our first activity will be an orientation at 6pm on the first day, followed by dinner with the group.

Departure is after breakfast on the final day.  If you are flying out that day you might try to arrange your flights for 11am or later to avoid getting up at the crack of dawn.

If you have time you might want to explore the Lakes district or enchanting towns like Bergamo or Verona, the site of Romeo and Juliet, before you arrive in Venice. This will give you plenty of time to recover from jet-lag before you settle in at the convent and start your workshop. Besides, Italy is not something that should be experienced in a hurry. Its charms need to seep into your skin while you linger at a café or amble through a piazza.

Travel Agent

If you don’t have your own trusted travel agent, here are two we can recommend:

They are familiar with Il Chiostro programs and can help you with flights, hotel reservations, extensions before or after your trip, transfers, and especially booking the right travel insurance to cover your trip.

Over the last couple of years, how we travel has changed.  For that reason, we now encourage everyone to use a travel professional to help arrange your travels.  One of the most important services they can provide today is to help you choose and enroll in the right travel insurance program. With Covid and the possibility of changes and postponements of itineraries, travel insurance is all but essential.  On your own, it can be overwhelming to select the right plan from the variety available.  Also, if you confront any obstacle while traveling, a travel professional will take the stress off your shoulders and help you to navigate through whatever issues may arise.  Booking through an online site like Expedia or Hotels is convenient and possibly less expensive, but they won’t be much help if you need to alter your plans.  A travel agent, on the other hand, is there to assist you throughout your trip.

If you choose to Go It Alone, we highly recommend taking out travel insurance for the trip in the event of any unforeseen obstacles to your travel.  We recommend Travelex (800) 504-7883 or Travel Guard International (877) 901-7599.

Venice, city, empire, wonder of the world, is one of the most visually stimulating places on Earth. Stripes of canals, Byzantine mosaics glittering in the sun, window cases of blown glass, leather-bound books, plumed masks, woodcut puppets. Each step through the crooked passages is a delight. Spend a week (or two) probing unknown corners. Stay long enough to lounge at a café. Get to know the old woman at the vegetable stall. Return to that tiny mask shop again and again. Photograph it. Artists and writers have been interpreting Venice since it was born in the lagoon centuries ago, from the Grand Canal to the tiny sculptures above the doorframes. Get lost in the sensuality.

Because Venice is such a visual feast that is a collection of its past, our program offers weeklong workshops in painting or photography. Participants coming from the different disciplines will capture and be stimulated by the passion of Venice.  Throughout the week the groups inspire one another to see in new ways and to experiment with their work in a city that has awed writers, painters, colonels and kings.

Bartosek-rialto sunset

Rialto Sunset by Cindy Bartosek