Ahead of a little holiday in Barcelona, and thinking about how I’ll make the most of this for my painting in between family time and sight seeing etc, I had a bit of realisation. While I think my painting has come on leaps and bounds over the past year, my sketching… well I don’t really think I’ve made much progress on that front at all.

I know from the experience of previous vacations that I won’t have the time to do much painting whilst I’m away, so I’ve set myself the challenge of doing some more sketchbook based work. I’ve packed an appropriate little sketching kit (and am particularly excited about using my Frazer Price palette box, but thought that I’d try to do a ‘practice run’ in the safety of home. I had a view in mind that is very near to another view that I’ve already painted before near Notre Dame. This view however is looking in the opposite direction to Notre-Dame, towards what I think is the Hotel De Ville (but if anyone with a better knowledge of Paris can confirm or correct this, I’d be really grateful!)

I thought this would be a good challenge because of its complexity – that the need to simplify it would be a good exercise. I decided that I’d start by doing a much more detailed, but infinitely looser pencil sketch than I usually start with. My plan was to do more of a tinted sketch than a painting. I endeavoured to sketch this out quickly, not to erase any pencil marks or errors, and to try to keep the pencil in contact with the paper as much as possible – almost as a continuous line – and to spend much more time looking at my reference photo than the paper I was sketching on to.  Now it’s not exactly sketchbook work, as this is a half imperial sized painting, but it’s only playing around. I should have taken a photo after I’d drawn it out as I really liked the sketch even though it was all over the place. Once I started to lay over some washes though, I immediately began to lose a lot of the underdrawing. This was completed in a couple of washes with the addition of some more detailed ‘jewellery’ just to finish it off. If you look closely, you can still see a lot of the pencil work beneath.

Watercolour painting of Hotel De Ville from near Notre-Dame by John Haywood
Sketchy view of Hotel De Ville (1)
I really enjoyed this, and the result. The unexpected bonus was how quickly I was able to do this (sketched out in the evening, painted the next morning). So quick that I had time to do it all over again! This time, the sketch was even sketchier and quicker. I did get a bit more carried away with the painting this time though so this did end up taking a bit longer, and, as a consequence has a bit more of a ‘finished’ feel about it but I was still pleased with the outcome – especially the architectural impressions, and some of the figure work.

Watercolour painting of the Hotel De Ville from near Notre-Dame by John Haywood
Sketchy view of Hotel De Ville (2)
I think the stronger foreground shadow also helps draw the eye in more and balance the composition better.

These two sketches have left me feeling really excited at the prospect of carrying some of this approach into smaller sketches and studies while we’re away.

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