As much as I love painting in watercolour – that doesn’t mean it’s something that I find easy or always relaxing. Some paintings come together with an effortlessness that seems to confirm how far you’ve come in your painting. Others, however, are much more of a struggle – as if serving to remind you of how far you’ve still got to go!
This week’s effort was definitely one of the latter. Now that there’s a bit of space between my working on this week’s picture and actually writing about it, I’m actually beginning to enjoy this painting. As I was painting it, I felt like I was in the eye of a storm! There were so many twists and turns along the way that I started this post off with over 20 work in progress images from trying to catalogue each stage of the painting’s progress. You’ll be glad to know that I managed to edit these down to what I hope covers the key stages, in between which there was a tremendous amount of general fiddling about, glazing, lifting off, darkening, some more fiddling, then another bit of glazing. It just went on and on!
I’ll try to spare you the gory details in favour of brevity and also not wishing to revisit the angst!
First up, the outline sketch. I spent a bit of time on this because I felt that perspectives on the boats needed to be as accurate as I could make them, otherwise it might stick out like the proverbial sore thumb.
One of the things I wanted to learn from last week’s painting, was to go strong enough with the first sky wash so that would need to put another wash in over the top. Here’s the sky wash (and please excuse the cockling of the paper, I was far too impatient to let this dry completely before getting on with the next stage!
And then came the foreground. Again, learning from last week, I tried to get a little more variety into the foreground at the outset,in this instance dropping in a lot more colour into the wash while it was wet and letting it all run together.
By the time this had dried, it was apparent that the sky would need another coat of paint! This was to add a little more intensity to the blue on the left, but also to make transitioning light in the sky better.
While the second sky wash was drying, I tried to put in some dark, bold shadows into the foreground. I tried this last week, instantly got cold feet and ended up blending the dark shadows across the foreground which did give it some extra texture. In a case of history repeating itself, I did exactly the same again this week! Here’s how it looked after I’d got cold feet once again!
Having so far been frustrated by the sky and the foreground – and don’t get me started on the sliver of the sea! (this went through so many variations!) – I was impatient to get on and paint the boats.
The boats took a look more work than I’d anticipated! I was trying to keep a sense of colour and the strength of tone. As I strengthened one area, then another looked too weak.This cycle of gradually building up the tone and colour went on for what seemed like an eternity!
Again, feeling impatient, I jumped ahead of myself to put in the main shadow, which then gave me the confidence to put in the other dark shadows on the beach that also help lead the eye towards the boat. The ruts in the pebbles are caused by the ski’s of the boats as they’re dragged up and down the beach.
Once that we dry, the beach looked too bright and warm, so I put a cool bluey glaze over the beach which got lighter and lighter towards the horizon line. At this stage, it finally felt as if the painting was coming together and that it might not be an entire disaster!
Next up was a lot more time spent on the boats, strengthening (yet again!) the hulls and adding in all of the details of the boats’ structures.This did involve a lot of backwards and forwards-ing but at least now I felt that the painting was mine to ruin! Oh, the last bit of masking fluid to come off was at the bottom left-hand corner, where I was trying to convey a jumble of bright green nylon netting.
Eventually, and after much more fiddling about than I care to admit to, I decided that enough was enough. As I say, with a bit more distance between the final painting and the frustrations I experienced painting it, I’m increasingly coming to like this painting which I think has a strong presence. I particularly like the composition, looking up at the boats from this angle and seeing them silhouetted against a setting sun makes them look quite monumental and heroic.
While this isn’t the end of my Hastings boats, I definitely want whatever I do next to be painted with a greater sense of freedom, and hopefully to actually feel like it’s more fun to paint!