With the festive season now in full swing, I’m finding precious little time for painting. Anytime I do get, I’m still drawn to much sunnier scenes than we’re currently experiencing here in the UK. This is another Barcelona view which has been on my ‘to paint’ list for a long time but I’ve never quite felt up to it. It also felt like a challenging contrast to last week’s painting. I was really happy with that contre jour painting, in which so much was lost in the shadows but knew I had to avoid trying to replicate something similar again! This brightly lit image does have some lost elements but it’s mainly crisply lit in full sun.
I managed to get a few work in progress shots along the way – ever hopeful that I may be documenting a masterpiece!
At this point, it was sort of finished and, as I often do, I left it on the easel for a while so I could mull it over some more.
On reflection, I think my loyalties were torn in this painting and I didn’t make a sufficiently clear decision about what interested me most about it. It probably should have been the foreground figures and the bustle under the umbrellas, but I was also torn by the particularly striking tall building. I really compromised any chance of communicating this building however with my choice of composition. By leaving the foreground so clear, which I hoped would lead the eye in and be a restful place, I actually restricted my options for conveying the height of the building. Then there’s the delicious ornateness of the top of the building. I really liked this aspect of the scene and thought I handled it in a relatively loose fashion that I was okay with, but I still feel it competes with other areas of the composition. I’m not sure how, but I think if I was to try this again, I’d need to find a way of making this much more of a supporting part. I imagine this would be a case of trying to be much lighter of touch and tone, painting this looser and in a much more suggestive manner.
After much mulling, I decided that at the risk of completely ruining it, I should try to rectify some of the things that were really niggling me. These niggles were mainly focussed on the figures beneath the umbrellas. I think I’d made these too dark and too uniform in positioning, tone and colour. My repair job started with a careful and thorough soaking of the area. Once the paper had absorbed the moisture I used some kitchen roll to try to lift out some of the pigment. This didn’t work as much as would have liked, but it did lighten the figures and the shadow area. Once this was done I was able to go back into the figures with some colour, especially those that I was trying to indicate as being nearer to the foreground. This did immediately give the painting a bit of a lift. Encouraged, I also added a standing figure in the background to break up the monotonous line of seated heads. Finally, using a little white gouache for some highlights, the umbrella posts and to suggest some chairs and chair legs catching the light under the awning:
I think these minor adjustments significantly improved the painting and, while I don’t think that this ranks in quite the same class of some of my more recent efforts, I’m pleased that I persevered.
Having identified a few clear ways in which I think this could be tackled again, and hopefully improved upon, I daresay I’ll find it hard to resist the temptation to try this one again!
Oh, in other news… in an effort to ring in the changes, I’ve just taken delivery of some new paper! For the past year or so, I’ve been painting on Saunders Waterford 425gsm rough paper. As I’ve often heard others extol the virtues of Arches, I’ve decided to try it out and have opted for the 300gsm rough. It feels very flimsy by comparison to the 425gsm Saunders Waterford so I’m expecting a lot more cockling than I’ve become accustomed to. The surface does, however, appear both rougher and brighter than the Saunders Waterford which I’m hoping will suit my approach.
I really hope that I do get on with this paper because, in a typically ‘cutting my nose off to spite my face’ approach, I ordered two packs of half imperial sheets in order to qualify for free postage! Great if I love it, but a huge false economy if I don’t and find I’ve spent in the region of £25 to save myself £5!
I’d love to hear other people’s experiences and opinions of either of these two papers or indeed any other paper recommendations that anyone may be willing to share.