Sometimes a subject can really get under your skin. This may be because it’s special to you in some way, or because you just love the view or colours or composition. Sometimes however it may be because you know what it is you’re trying to achieve with a view but, try as you might, you just can’t quite manage it.

This is how I feel about this week’s subject. I also feel so frustrated by my experiences (not to mention pushed for time) that I’m struggling to summon up the words to describe my travails!

In essence I did three takes on the same view… and whereas I usually feel that I make solid progress, when I tackle a scene a few times, I don’t feel at all happy with where I ended up this time! Hopefully you’ll get sense of why I liked the scene – I just wish I could have done it a bit more justice!

Watercolour painting of a Barcelona street view by John Haywood
Barcelona street view I
Watercolour painting of a Barcelona street view by John Haywood
Barcelona Street View II
Watercolour painting of a Barcelona street view by John Haywood
Barcelona street view III

I really regret having gone in so heavy with the gouache on the tree of this third one. This was largely born out of my frustration and just going a bit crazy with the gouache. I know this should only ever be used most sparingly, if at all, but of all my efforts, I suppose that this cropped one of my third effort is perhaps the best of a bad bunch.

Watercolour painting of a Barcelona street view by John Haywood
Barcelona street view III cropped

There are some definite takeaways for me from this experience. In each case I put down a light base wash of colour, over which I then tried to add darker washes of shadow. What I didn’t master in either case was the strength of tone in each wash. The upshot was that my base wash was too weak, and then so too was my shadow wash, which sometimes meant two, three or four washes which killed any sense of light or transparency – and rendered the base wash pretty pointless! My aim was to get this correct in two washes max and allow the colour of the base to show through. I’m going to try and not get too disheartened by all of this, but instead take it for what it is:all part of the journey.

On the plus side, I received a new batch of reference prints the other day. I haven’t opened them yet but know from memory that they contain images from recent visits to Brighton, Dieppe and London. After focussing so much on Barcelona of late, I’m hoping that a change of scene will do whatever I paint next the world of good!

18 thoughts on “Third time (not so) lucky watercolour…

    1. Thanks David – I think after initially thinking that the third one was the most successful – I’m now much more inclined to agree with your preference for number two! Thanks for sharing your thoughts – much appreciated!

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  1. I think you did a great job on this subject, John. And the learning experience is always priceless… especially when it seems frustrating in the moment. I have butchered so many of my own watercolors with trying to “rescue” them with white paint… so I really know what you are talking about. :-)When you start to paint the final version one day you should consider to take the ease of the 2nd version with the the warmth of the last… and the use of the white in this version will help you to save some paper-white in the next version. I don´t like the cropped version that much, because the beautiful texture of the wall in the shades on the right got lost here. I think you cropped the maybe most powerful part here in my opinion.

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    1. Thanks so much for this Carsten – I really appreciate the empathy! I hadn’t really thought about trying this view again, but your comments have encouraged me. I’m going to focus on something else next, but shall come back to this again sooner rather than later! I also understand you not liking the cropped version too. I think I did this because, as I mentioned in an earlier response, that whole part of the painting did look really good, sadly I overdid it with about another two washes that I felt really killed the vibrancy of that side of the painting and I just didn’t like looking at what I’d ruined! Hopefully I’ll be back on this view again soon and am already feeling much more optimistic about the potential outcome! Thanks Carsten!

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    1. Thanks for this Ruskshana and yes, the more I look at that second one, the more I like it’s qualities! (I just didn’t like to admit it having invested so much time and effort in the third version!)

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  2. Well, I like the second one best, too, because of the figures – I ALWAYS notice whats going on with the figures over everything else! Other than that, being an acrylic painter, I would just carry right on and tone down the white with some more dark 🙂 But mostly, John, this looks like you had a great learning experience and I take my hat off to you for excellent handling of the light and overall atmosphere of the piece – maybe come back another day and have a fresh go at it, if you want to? 🙂

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  3. I like the second one mainly because it is looser and the building on the right opens up more and it is less foreboding. Remember working frustrated only pushes the self criticism deeper, this is coming from a recovering perfectionist. haha boy, do I know! I have had a few artist brat attacks, lol. It sure tests our patience, doesn’t it?!

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    1. You’re so right about having the old patience tested! Thanks to people’s comments, I’ve decided that I’ll revisit this gain once I’ve had a change of scenery. I’m beginning to see in my minds eye a looser version of this that I’m keen to have a go at! (or it could just be that I’m a glutton for disappointment!)

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    1. haha and yes, you’re quite right Ryan, it’s all so personal! I think I’ve become wedded to the third one because I spent most time on it and there was a point during the painting when it was looking pretty good (before I went in with yet another darker wash and obliterated much of the its delicacy. Ah well, upwards and onwards, and I really appreciate you comments – I’m already feeling much more light hearted about it all!

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