Should anyone ever need proof of my obsessive tendencies, then they need look no further than this post!

Here are the three A5 watercolour sketches that I posted last week.

As a reminder, my brief was to produce a scene featuring both Notre Dame and the Cafe Aux Tours de Notre Dame which is on an adjacent corner. I’d really enjoyed painting these sketches and felt that I had a good sense of what I was after when I came to work this view up a little larger.

The following images are all painted at quarter imperial size. Here was my first attempt at working these sketches up:

I was quite disappointed with how this turned out, which I felt was quite ‘muddy’ and overworked compared to the sketches. I certainly didn’t feel that after all the time and effort I’d invested so far, that this was a satisfactory end result. Nothing for it then but to try again! Here’s my next effort:

A watercolour painting of the Cafe Aux Tours de Notre Dame, Paris by John Haywood
Cafe Aux Tours de Notre Dame, Paris

I was a lot happier with this effort. The focal point is much more clearly on the waiter, and there is a much greater sense of movement and life across the whole painting. There’s also a greater warmth to the Notre-Dame in the background. Finally, I felt I’d reached a conclusion that was I relatively happy with.

Just for comparison, below is the original painting I did of this view back in 2017, alongside my most recent effort:

At the back of my mind, as I’d been working on these paintings, I’d been wondering what this scene might look like given a more monochromatic treatment. I decided to limit myself to a palette of predominantly cobalt blue and burnt sienna – with the odd touch of colour here and there for the awnings.

As I’d now done a version that I was happy with, and this was more ‘just for fun’ – I really rattled through this one. There’s a lot I like about it, particularly Notre Dame in the background. It obviously conjures up a more wet and overcast day, which isn’t for everyone – but as an exercise, I quite like how it turned out.

I shared all three of these with my ‘commissioner’ – clearly stating which I felt was the most successful. Fortunately we were both in agreement so, in due course, this will be winging it’s way to America – hopefully to arrive in time a special occasion!

I must confess that looking at this post, and seeing such a plethora of variations of the same view… it’s like looking in a mirror and seeing my OCD tendencies reflected back at me! 

Assuming I can tear myself away from producing endless variations of this motif, it will be nice to move on to something else!

12 thoughts on “Obsessive watercolour paintings

  1. I think painting multiple versions of the same subject is brilliant. I wonder why more artists don’t do it? The first usually has some mistake or other that will bug you forever. The second is usually the best, and the third is oftentimes just as good, but pushes the boundaries a bit, and you discover something new to add to your toolkit. I just finished there versions of the same subject myself, and I learned something new with each one. Kudos!

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    1. Haha – yes! Thanks for this Melanie! I do recognise your 3 phases of repetition and am pleased and relieved that I’m not the only one that gets a lot from such a trial and error approach! Many thanks Melanie – much appreciated!

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  2. Not again! Where’s JOHN? Has anyone seen John’s SOUL? He lost it making endless copies of other artist’s work! Enough of Alvovo, Zbukvic et al, enough of blurred greys and red awnings.Return, please, to the charming English countryside, it’s warmth and coziness, things YOU know. Or it’s lakes and seasides filled with boats of character (you do them so well!) Most of all, forget how other artists paint; how does JOHN paint…or have you forgotten? Forget ‘what sells’, just please yourself first! Know thyself! Honesty sells, not soulless copies.

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    1. Hi Margery and hats off to you for your impassioned from the heart plea! I shall of course endeavour to plough my own furrow – whether it’s of the Englsih countryside or of a Parisien street scene! I should also point out that I do know Paris and that this scene was based on my own experience of Paris and the photos I took there. Of course I’m delighted that you like my paintings of the English countryside but I don’t only wish to paint such scenes – especially when most of my subject matter and inspiration is based on my travels. On this occassion I was also working to a brief – and I’m pleased that the person commissioning it is happy with what I’ve produced. I do however appreciate that these paintings could be accused of being derivatives of work by the likes of Castagnet and Zbukvic – (both of whom I admire and respect and am undoubtedly influenced by their work). I do always endeavour to ‘paint my own way’ and to please myself – but I appreicate that sometimes this may come across more uniquely in some paintings than in others!

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  3. I am not the only one who paints a scene over and over! Whew, I am relieved! I think that it is an exercise that is very beneficial to help loosen up, explore a scene and prove that we artists can be stubborn with ocd tendencies. There were so many paintings that are my favorites, I agree with you on the one that you felt was muddy but in my opinion you have to have a few not so stellar to help decipher which ones are winners. Shine on!

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    1. Haha – yes Margaret, I know you have your Bullards that keeps you endlessly inspired! Like you I think there’s a lot to be learnt from revisiting the same scene or motif – though I would like to think I might be able to get a little more variation in them in future. I think that knowing this was ‘for someone’ meant that I was more focussed on achieving a particular outcome rather than playing around with the subject too much which resulted in lots of quite similar takes on the same subject! Thanks so much Margaret!

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    1. Thanks so much for this Onie – I’m so pleased you like the paintings and I take great comfort from your Monet and his water lillies comparison! Many thanks for commented, I really appreciate it!

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