In last week’s post I mentioned that I had a work in progress but couldn’t tell if it was progressing towards a mount, a frame and onto the wall, or straight to the bin?

Well, after spending a bit more time on it over the weekend, I can confirm that it’s heading for the bin… or at least the massive pile of paintings that may be valuable for what I learnt on the way, but aren’t really suitable for public consumption!

I liked the composition of the original photograph for this (with apologies for the quality – the one below is a photo of the photo!), and there’s no doubt that it’s a bit more involved and detailed than some of my recent work, but I thought that with a fair wind I could do it some justice:

Barmouth beach reference photo

Unfortunately, I ended up doing this painting in lots of little bits… ten minutes here, half an hour there, and I think it shows. I usually like to throw myself in and get as much done as possible as quickly as possible, and then finish off with some final details. I like the momentum of this approach and how, at its best, you become totally consumed in the act of painting.

With this painting however, I was doing it more like a jigsaw, an element over here, leave it for a few hours, another over there, leave it overnight, a dibble here and a dabble there.

Barmouth beach on a half imperial sheet of Saunders Waterford

That’s not to say I don’t like any of this painting.

– I do like the main building.
– I particularly like the wet sand in the foreground.
– I like some of the reflections in the foreground water, and the transition from this shallow water into the wet sand.

However overall, there’s a heavy-handedness to many of the elements which give it a particularly labored feel. I’m not at all happy with most of the left hand side of this image. I tried to simplify the view, but I’m just not at all convinced by the boats, buildings, background cliffs or by the reflections (– does that cover everything…?!). I should also probably mention the main boat as it’s such a strong focal point. Again, I think this is overworked. I became far too concerned with trying to portray the specifics of the hull of the boat, and in doing so, lost the essence of the boat.

In an effort to find some redeeming qualities, I tried a few different crops to see if a different composition improved my view of it.

Barmouth beach (crop 1)
Barmouth beach (crop 2)
Barmouth beach (crop 3)

It’s strange that I find this final, narrow crop (crop 3), the most satisfying. I say strange because the sky and the foreground sands are, to my mind, two of the most successful elements – yet it seems to me to work better with less of either!

I’m torn between trying to do this again straight away whilst so much of what I’ve learnt is still fresh in the mind (but paint it much more quickly and more loosely) or leaving it  well-alone for a while and trying my hand at something completely different.

What do you think? Same again (striking while the iron’s hot?) or something new (because the grass is always greener on the other side)?

19 thoughts on “Some you win… some you lose…

  1. Reflections are good, and composition is strong. I agree about the last image, perhaps it’s something to do with less being more. the focus is on the boat and the buildings which are the key elements. I often crop a painting that i am not happy with, and make a smaller painting. That often works. Definitely worth keeping. Come back to it later, and you will see things more objectively

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    1. Hi David and thanks for this. I’m already re-drawing this one out – trying to strip away more detail and can already see quite distinctly that all the areas of interest (building, boat, reflections etc) fall in quite a narrow band through the middle of the painting! I suppose I don’t mind cropping it down again if needs be but in my head I was thinking that the expanses of sky and foreground sands provided some restful space for the eye. I’ve put this effort away for now but look forward to comparing it with my next effort.

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  2. Don’t throw it away! The third crop is the one I like the best too. I see what you mean about the left hand side part though. Unlike one commenter, I like the building – that big bold shape looks good, so bright – and you’ve got the reflections in the water just right

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    1. Thanks so much for this and I haven’t thrown it away – not just yet at least! I keen to see how the next one of this scene that I’ve already started compares with it. I’m changing the composition slightly and leaving out more of the background and left hand side details. Feeling good about it so far but am still only sketching it out – so plenty of time for things to go wrong yet!

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  3. The third crop is by far the best composition. I really enjoy reading your thoughts. I learned from a master visual artist that by exploring all options we come to the best solution, the first choice is usually not the best. Good work pushing yourself to make your work the best it can be! My experience is to put something away for awhile that I have been obsessing over, work on something else, then go back to it later. Listen to your intuition, I don’t have all the answers.

    Sent from my iPhone

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    1. Thanks so much for this – much appreciated – and great advice too on exploring all the options. I think because I quite liked the original photo, I wasn’t critical enough when I came to sketch it out. In the course of writing this post I started to look much more closely – so much so that I couldn’t hold back and have already started to sketch out another painting of this scene. (I know! I think it’s against my better judgement too!). Hope you can check back with me next week to see if I can manage an improvement!

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  4. I really like this painting and wouldn’t have taken issue with it despite of what you call heavy handedness. The composition is strong, the colours are good and both are convincing. I’d probably want to work on another version straight away and I would recommend that but that’s just me. That way, the lesson you are setting for yourself might become even more ingrained. Also, I wanted to ask what your centre of interest actually was in this one. Whatever it is not needn’t be worked out in as much detail as in this version. Happy painting!

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    1. Thanks so much for such a kind and considered response – I really appreciate it. Funnily enough I’ve just put down my board where I’m re-drawing this out. I was aware when I drew out the first version that the main building was very central – and that between the boat and the building – there was a bit too much competition. As I’m sketching out the next one I’m trying to keep all of this in mind – and to strip out more detail! Hopefully I’ll have something to show for this next week! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment – it really is much appreciated!

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      1. Oh how exciting! I bet it will go very well. I like the reduced pallets you use. I look forward to seeing the new version and other new paintings!

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  5. I am no painter, so I really admire the ones who have the skill to paint. Photo, or no photo, as help. In my opinion, to remember, not to compare with a photo. Most viewers, on expo, will not know of a photo, will they? And, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I like both the full size and the ‘panorama’-cropped. Full size on the wall. Panorama as a header for a website 🙂
    The sky, the water and the sand really lifts this painting.
    / Martin, Finland

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    1. Thanks so much for your kind comments Martin – much appreciated! I know what you mean about comparing the painting against the photo – the painting will often lose out – but for the purposes of this blog, and my own development, I think it’s quite valuable to see the ‘whole picture’ as it were – even if it does often end up in me being a little over-critical! Many thanks for takin the time to comment, it’s much appreciated.

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  6. I am no painter, so I really admire the ones who have the skill to paint. Photo, or no photo, as help. In my opinion, to remember, not to compare with a photo. Most viewers, on expo, will not know of a photo, will they? And, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I like both the full size and the ‘panorama’-cropped. Full size on the wall. Panorama as a header for a website 🙂
    / Martin, Finland

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I agree with you that 3 is the best of the bunch. I wonder what it was that first attracted you. For me the principal building adds nothing of interest; perhaps I’m soppy enough to want a couple of a hundred years old cottages?

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    1. Haha, thanks Peter and I take your point! I know it’s not the most interesting of buildings but I think it looks quite incongruous against the backdrop of the hills, and I quite like its shape and proportions. I’ve contacted some people that live nearby in the hope I can find out some more details about it – not that it’ll make it any more visually beautiful, but a bit of extra context surely can’t do any harm!?

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