Following on from last week’s experiments with new colour mixes for greys and siennas, I was keen to do some more practicing to help build my confidence and proficiency. I wasn’t sure how much time I’d be able to dedicate to painting and I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired to tackle a new subject so found myself drawn back to a recent favourite. This is partly because I really love the view but also because i thought it would be a great subject on which to test my new greys!  As this is a familiar scene to me, having painted it not only once, but twice before,  I was also keen to try to tackle it in a slightly different, and (in my mind at least) a more loose, painterly manner albeit with a limited colour palette. I tried to encourage this by only doing a very loose outline sketch and, once I started painting, to work with as large a brush as possible.

Shadows on Le Pont Alexandre III, Paris
Shadows on Le Pont Alexandre III, Paris
This was one of those rare occasions when everything seemed to fall into place quite nicely! I was mindful about trying not to overwork this – even though I was sorely tempted to go back over a few areas – and I’m pleased that I resisted the temptation as I think it has a freshness and immediacy that some of my other efforts at this scene lack. I think this is most apparent in the figures which I think have a pleasing directness about them. It’s far from perfect, but I think it’s flaws don’t detract from the overall feel or impact of the scene. Also, proportionally to the original photographs, this is probably the most accurate in terms of scale and the relationships between the key elements.

Buoyed by the outcome of this painting, and the speed with which it was painted. I felt that I still had time to squeeze another painting in. This time I used as my source as photograph that I took from the top deck of  bus one day which gave quite an unusual perspective. The scene is of the main road into Brighton, just where the famous Brighton Pier on the seafront becomes visible. 

It’s not a particularly attractive scene, but I remember when I took the photo that I just loved the quality of light, the brightness of it and the gleaming highlights. Again, I thought it would be another good test of my greys. This did take me quite a while to sketch out, especially getting the perspectives and proportions right between all the elements. Once I was happy with the drawing, I used a lining pen to apply some masking fluid to the most obvious highlights. I did this so that I could focus on my colours and how I was applying them rather than having to concentrate on cutting round so many fine details.

Arriving at Brighton Pier in the sunshine
Arriving at Brighton Pier in the sunshine

I know this isn’t what you’d call picturesque but this was more about overcoming the challenges of the scene – especially in  simplifying a very complex subject and creating a painting that ‘reads’ well. I was pretty pleased with the overall outcome of this and, as I was thinking about the painting afterwards, I realised that it’s notable for quite a few reason:

  • The first time I’ve painting anything of my hometown
  • My first ever motorbike (not to mention two!)
  • My first pier
  • My first effort at including birds in a painting (couldn’t have a painting of Brighton Pier without it’s ever present seagulls circling above waiting to swoop on unsuspecting tourists to steal their chips!)

All in all, and especially as I wasn’t expecting to achieve much this week, I think things turned out pretty well. I’m feeling quite excited about whatever comes next, although I feel I’m slightly struggling for subject matter having almost exhausted my folder of source material!

4 thoughts on “Shades of Grey

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