Bold, Evocative Watercolour Paintings by John Haywood
Brighton train station, and a watercolour rite of passage
First, a post script
Before moving on to the main substance of today’s post, first a little post-script to last week’s post where the response by some – including myself I must confess – was to question ‘where’s the roof’? After being presented with a couple of options, one being to paint the roof, the other being to paint the sky – I plumped for the second option. Here’s a couple of before and after pictures to compare and contrast.
I think on balance, I do prefer seeing the sky, although, on reflection, I’m not sure this particular blue was quite the right one to use! What the process did reiterate was how much I dislike returning to work on a painting once I feel I’ve already moved on from it. I think this may be my problem however and it’s one that I should probably just get over. On this occasion, my main priority was just to get this one out of the way and off my board so that I could get on with a new painting. As I’d already identified my next subject and was quite excited about it, I was also quite impatient to get started.
Brighton train station
I think I’ve known for a long time now that one day I would try to tackle a train station interior. I’ve seen so many train station paintings by artists that I admire that me having a go at one felt like some kind of watercolour rite of passage. For year’s now, every time I walk through my local Brighton train station, I’m looking for the light and composition that might make a painting. I’ve taken countless photos, most of which get deleted, and I’ve spent ages with my neck craned upwards to admire such an amazing feat of cast iron engineering and intricacy. All the while trying to imagine how could I paint that, how could I do it justice, how could I simplify all of that intricate geometry. Well now was my chance to find out!
I had a couple of similar images to work from. I only allowed myself to look at them small so that I’d have to concentrate on the main shapes and not get distracted by all of the details. This was really helpful as it focussed me on trying to ensure that the perspective lines and overall scale of the elements were correct. The detail with the roof and glazing of the building are incredible, but I’ve had years of thinking about this, not to mention the time I’ve spent studying how others have tackled similar view, so I did have a pretty good idea of what I wanted the end painting to look like. Sadly, however, this wasn’t it!
I did quite enjoy painting this but felt a little underwhelmed by the end of it. Some parts felt overworked while others felt underworked but it just didn’t resemble closely enough the image I had in my mind’s eye. I even tried to view a different crop which, although better, still didn’t satisfy my expectations:
After having spent quite a long time sketching this first version, I now felt I understood it well enough to draw it out again quickly, and better. I also knew that there were elements of the painting itself that I needed to address. Much of this could be characterised by the need to better tread the line between accuracy and abandonment! I felt that too many of my brushstrokes felt clumsy of touch, rather than being deft and light of touch. I also needed to work harder to get the values of my washes correct first time around, rather than overworking with repeated washes. I knew then in theory how I wanted to approach the next version differently – but whether I could achieve it was entirely different!
Here’s the take one and two side by side for ease of comparison:
A big day out?
Finally, after weeks of careful weather watching, the forecast at the beginning of this was looking really positive for today (Wednesday) so I took the plunge and booked a train ticket to London. All being well, as many of you may be reading this, I shall be on a Plein Air paint out in London’s St James’s Park organised by the good people behind British Plein Air Painters. It’s completely free to participate and the format is really simple: meet at the ‘Cafe Inn the Park’ at 10.30am, go off and paint, reconvene at around 4.30pm to compare notes!
This will be my first time participating in an event like this so I’m mildly nervous but mainly full of excitement and anticipation. I know the park pretty well from my time in London. I have a couple of vague vantage points in mind but nothing concrete. My main concern is how busy the park is. The likelihood of finding a little vantage point where I’m not overlooked by passersby (of which there’ll be so many) is very slim so I’ll be quite exposed!
On the bright side, the weather forecast is looking great and it will be nice to meet other painters too. Hopefully, I’ll be able to regale you with tales from this adventure next week!