I can’t help but notice over the course of my recent watercolour paintings of Dieppe that a certain motif has started to emerge; the sun shade! I like to think that it reflects just how nice the weather was while we were in Dieppe and perhaps as winter begins to tighten it’s grip here in the UK, I can’t help but hark back to much sunnier warmer days!
Another part of me fears that sunshades have become my good luck motif as this is now the third painting on the trot that I feel broadly okay about. After last week’s post, which I ended wondering if my two steps forwards would naturally lead to a step back, I think the answer is ‘no’. I’m not sure it’s as significant a step forward as my previous two paintings, but there’s still like much more about it than I dislike.
This view is of Place du Puits Salé and the bustling activity beneath the sunshades of the famous Café Des Tribunaux – which is just out of view to the right – once an inn favoured by the likes of Renoir, Monet, Sickert, Whistler and Pissarro. I feel I should point out that I learnt this from the guidebook and that I’m not in any way trying to associate my own name with such hallowed artists by mentioning them here! And if it helps further, I didn’t actually frequent this café, it just that we were staying opposite and it features in so many of my photographs from our stay!
This was once again painted in a loose and – some might argue – slightly cavalier attitude. Another loose outlined sketch was followed by washing colour across the entire sheet, and then, whilst still wet, flooding in more colour and allowing it to mix on the paper. This was all done quickly and energetically. I’m finding the approach really exhilarating in a slightly ‘by the seat of my pants’ style. While I sometimes have quite a clear idea of what I’m aiming for and how to achieve it, there’s also a lot of guesswork. I’d like to think that a lot of the guesswork is educated – based on previous experiences and my understanding of the colours in my palette, but I can’t deny that some of it definitely is guesswork, plain and simple!
Once the initial wash was dry, I was able to go back in and tackle smaller areas one at a time whilst keeping a watchful eye on the how it was developing overall. In practice, this mainly involved taking frequent steps back from the painting and really taking time to view it from a distance to see how it was reading. This process seems to prevent me getting sucked in more and more closely to the details and all of the risks of fiddling about too much that this invites. I’m finding this constant process of focussing in, then focussing out really helpful – especially when it comes to that crucial decision of when to actually stop painting and call it a day.
In building up this particular painting, it fell rather nicely into distinct sections such as the people under the sunshades, the trees on the left, the main sunlit figures, the strong foreground shadow etc. I just picked these off one by one, more on mood and how confident I felt at each given point. The main figures were the last things I tackled with the exception of a few highlights and some tidying up here and there. I still have reservations about some of the background buildings and their roofs, but I’m also gradually learning to let go of feeling too precious – especially when they’re not the main area of focus.
While I haven’t exhausted my Dieppe reference material, and I’ve really enjoyed painting this little triptych of ‘sundshades in Dieppe’ – I’m thinking that another change of scene might be on the cards next!