I often find that a really successful painting works from whatever distance you view it from. Invariably, it will usually work better from a distance but often it will draw you in to look closer and still not disappoint. Less successful works however usually only work from a single viewpoint. This week’s efforts certainly fall into this category!

The setting, once again, is a square in Barcelona. The original scene was very complex and busy, so simplifying down was really important. I was particularly attracted to the play of light, and the very graphic quality of the planters in the foreground and how the light really picks out the rims. I spent quite a bit of time trying to draw these elements out in an effort to get the ellipses as accurate as possible. Other elements I only sketched in loosely and thought I’d try to tackle them as I went.

On this first effort, I got off on the wrong foot from the outset when I put a wash in for the rooftops when the sky was still damp and it cauliflowered up into the sky! I decided to persevere regardless to see what else I might learn on the way (I eventually raised the rooflines so I could paint over all of the cauliflowering!).

I painted quickly but think I confused ‘painting with confidence’ with ‘painting slapdash’ – and I think it shows too!

A watercolour painting of a square in Barcelona by John Haywood
Barcelona Square in the sunlight take 1

I think that the finished effort was so far away from my hopes and expectations that I needed to give this another go.

A watercolour painting of a square in Barcelona by John Haywood
Barcelona Square in the sunlight take 2

While this still has many flaws (most of them a little too obvious for my liking!) – from a distance it does read okay. The central umbrellas and background buildings are all much better, and it does convey the sense of a brightly lit square that I was after. As soon as it comes under any closer scrutiny however, it’s a different story! I think the handling of figures, although an improvement on the first effort, is still rudimentary and laboured.

What I have realised through this recent experience, however, is how far I’ve come with my painting. Not so long ago I would often do two, three or sometimes four versions of the same scene before producing something that I was reasonably satisfied with. More recently, however, I’ve often been able to stop after my first effort feeling sufficiently pleased to move on to another subject.

I suppose that, much like viewing a painting from a distance, taking a step back and looking at my painting trajectory from a distance is also a healthy thing to do every now and then!

5 thoughts on “From a distance…

  1. Thank you for sharing these progressive paintings, John! The dry-brush work on the second painting is very nice, and I like that there is more of a gradation in the middleground wash, i.e. around the people. They are spot-on! I also really appreciate your comment on taking a step back to review ones development in painting. That’s so helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Antje – I really appreciate your comments – especially as I still feel a little disappointed when I look at these two in isolation! When I look back to paintings of two or three years ago however, it helps put them into some context! Thanks again for taking the time to get in touch.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks so much Antje – that really means a lot to me to hear that! Look forward to keeping up to date with you more too! 🙏🏻😁


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