After last week’s slightly underwhelming effort of this scene of the old Bathhouse (and now a café) on Barmouth Beach, I was keen to put all that I’d learned from the experience, and from your feedback, into a new painting. As a refresher, here’s my painting from last week:
And here’s what I had in mind when starting afresh:
- Strip out some of the unnecessary detail
- I liked the sky, the foreground sand, and some of the reflections – so try to bring these to fore again
- The boat was overworked – too fussy
- The boat was competing with the building, so try to resolve this…
With my new blank piece of paper, I started by drawing a grid of thirds to mark the golden rule (for my first painting, I just drew it all out free-hand). In doing this, I really noticed how much of the painting’s focal point falls within a narrow band across the middle of the painting – which probably explains why the long narrow crop was the most successful from last week:
Using the guidelines, I made sure that the boat and the building were better positioned and in better proportion to each other, the boat more obviously in the foreground. I also lost all of the (to my mind) unnecessary clutter behind and to the left of the main building and brought all of the boats with their masts closer to the building as I liked these and their reflections. I also extended the amount of water in the foreground as I thought this would allow for more reflections, and might also prevent the painting being quite so ‘narrow’ across the middle. To the right of the building, I really extended out the harbour wall to help draw the eye across the painting.
Once I had everything in place, I erased the guidelines and waited until I knew I had a couple of hours that I might be able to devote to this. I was keen to avoid the pick and mix approach that I’d had to adopt last time.
When I started painting I tried to introduce a little more colour into the sky than I’d had previously – aiming for some heavy purple-ish grey rain clouds – but ending up with some rather too obvious bits of Alazirin Crimson! From this point on, everything else became a bit of a frenzied blur as I scuttled here and there across the paper – working on one element whilst another was drying, but trying to work as broadly as possible and not fiddle. The distant hills to the right went in much paler than in the previous attempt and I was keen to get a softer lost and found feeling across the hill tops. The darker hills to the left of the building were also done much lighter in tone that I had done previously.
Everything else built up okay – ish, and I tried not to go in too dark to soon anywhere. Eventually, when I could do no more, I downed brushes and took a step back (and here’s where it would perhaps have been useful to have taken a reference photo!).
It was looking okay… but the reflections were a little too perfect and looked a bit stilted, and the transition between the foreground water to the wet sand, and the sand itself wasn’t quite as successful as I wanted it to be – especially as it had been one of my favourite elements last time round.
After a bit of consideration, I decided to glaze over this whole area with a blue / brown / grey wash. This definitely helped with the reflections, simultaneously softening and darkening them (and allowing me to scrape out just a few suggestions of movement in water’s surface), but then I think I went in too heavy with the sand, which now looks more like dirty muddy sand, rather that wet golden sand. And here’s where I decided to leave it:
So, considering I thought that the sky and foreground sand were the most successful elements last week, I think they’re the weakest elements this week – hence the swings and roundabouts of the title! Overall however, I think this is a much better considered and realised image. I think the composition is much stronger and some elements, the buildings, reflections, boats and masts etc are quite successful. There’s also a much greater sense of depth and recession.
Even though I think I may come back to this another day, I feel happy enough for now to leave this alone and look for another subject to paint – even though it may be another of Barmouth Beach! I’m not sure how many paintings constitute a series, but I now have two of Barmouth Beach that I’m relatively content with and am sure I’ve another image that I think would work well somewhere!
Actually, on second thoughts, I will definitely try for something different; I can’t expect everyone to share my fondness for this view!
I’ll leave you with some comparisons to compare and contrast from the past two weeks and, as ever, I’d welcome any feedback and thoughts on these paintings.