I had reason to trawl back through my photographs the other day in a desperate attempt to win a discussion/argument about where we were, when were we there, and who were we there with, all of which is now clouded in the mists of time (at least in my mind!). Needless to say, I was wrong, but happily so as I stumbled across a few potential photos for paintings that I’d previously overlooked or dismissed.

I recently added to my ‘about’ page a rare photograph of me painting plein air.

Painting on Lindisfarne

Turns out this photograph is nine years old! I have no idea where the actual painting is that I was working on in this photo, but the view that I was looking at was towards Lindisfarne castle, on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne in Northumbria. Here’s my ‘new’ sketch of the view that I was trying to paint all those years ago:

Looking towards Lindisfarne castle

I chose to do this because I thought it would be a quick and easy view to paint. While it may have been quick to paint, and it could be argued easy, I certainly don’t want to spend that long looking at it! As it was quick, I might try to paint this view again, but work towards producing something that I’m more satisfied with!

I also came across another view, maybe from about eight or so years ago, from a trip we made down to an area called the Witterings, near Chichester in West Sussex. I can’t recall exactly where this view is, but I thought it had some drama to it!

Somewhere near the Witterings, West Sussex

In contrast to the sketch of Lindisfarne Castle, which I just think feels really limp, I wanted to paint this with greater mix of boldness and sensitivity and, while it’s no masterpiece, I think the brushstrokes do have an economy and an energy about them and I managed to avoid becoming too tight when painting the mass of boats. I’m quite pleased with this one.

Encouraged, and staying on the theme of boats, I tried to apply some of this looseness and energy to a scene of the fishing boats at Hastings. I did a series of half sheet paintings of these boats earlier this year. I was pleased with some of them, but others I felt did become quite tight and overworked. For this sketch, I was working on a much smaller 12 x 8 sheet. As with the Witterings painting, the initial pencil sketch was very loose, and I was keen to try to ‘draw with my brushes’ as much as possible.

Fishing boats at Hastings

Again, for a quickish sketch, I was quite pleased with how this turned out.

What I find quite amusing/interesting are the distinctions that I find myself applying to my own work. For instance, when looking at these last two sketches – despite approaching them both in a similar way, I perceive the two of them very differently. The Witterings one feels to me much more ‘painterly’ than the Hastings sketch, which I think is much more illustrative?

It could just be that the Witterings sketch is more suggestive and impressionistic, the subject matter requiring much less definition, so allowing for more gestural brushstrokes. Now I’m not going to tie myself in knots over this but, as ever, I welcome anyone else’s thoughts and opinions as to the respective merits or otherwise of these two!

13 thoughts on “Witterings’ watercolour

  1. Perhaps it won’t come as a great shock to you to hear that I like the Lindisfarne view best, though it could do with a little more going on in the foreground – a Northumbrian piper, perhaps; (I seem to remember trying to put some distance between myself and one of those last time I was there). The distant view of the castle and the clean colours suggest a delightful calm.
    The Hastings view is pleasant, too, like your other Hastings beach views – though, I must admit, you’ve done a better job than previously with the beach itself; it was well worth providing a bigger version to get our teeth into. Nice and gritty.
    Wittering? It’s a shame you couldn’t find some nice hot-pressed paper so that we could read the names on the boats. The stuff you’ve used is so lumpy it’s left white gaps in the paint. (Back to the original display size for this one, perhaps).

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    1. Glad you like the Lindisfarne view even though I don’t! In my reference material, there were some sheep in the mid distance and I did have half a mind to try to include them – but there’s something about trying to paint sheep that gives me the fear! Co-incidentally, the friend we were staying with when we made that visit also follows my blog and after reading this post has sent me a couple of other photos through that she took only the other week. I’ve already made a couple of crops to them so will hopefully do at least another one sketch of Lindisfarne (though I still doubt they’ll feature any Northumbrian pipers or sheep!). The Lindisfarne one was done on some Daler Langton rough – which is still comparatively smooth compared to the Arches rough that the other two were painted on. I do prefer the rough as I prefer the broken surfaces – what you’re seeing as gaps in the paint, I’m trying to see as the sparkle on the waters’ surface! Could you try looking again but this time really squinting?!

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  2. Hey John! Like the new direction you’re trying! I’ve said before, I LOVE BOATS and water! So glad to see you’re putting more ‘feeling’ into your paintings! I disagree with ‘barbieh44’ when he/she asks for more details! This is not supposed to be in inventory, a painting to prove you know minute details of a boat, instead it gives a ‘feeling’ , a personal reaction to how you understand the breeze, the salty smell, the real emotion of the place. I do wonder about that super structure tilted above the blue boat? I see a ladder, are they maybe adding it onto the boat? Repairing it? You paint boats well; so many people try to paint them but don’t understand their lines and structure. Congrats!

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    1. Hi Marge and thanks so much for this. So pleased you approve of the nautical theme! There’s definitely something about boats that make them an enduringly fascinating subject to paint – and I suppose these two paintings alone show that there’s lots of different ways to try to paint them! The white structure on the blue boat has something to do with the trawler’s nets but the perspective looks a bit out of whack with the rest of the boat I confess! Hope you’re feeling better!?

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  3. I love the Witterings one, as you say it is loose and expressive. That is not to say that I don’t like the boats on the beach, they are lovely as well, but I can see what you mean about labouring, but how could you expect to get all the boat detail without labouring. Love your blog

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    1. Thanks so much for this – and for your kind words about the blog – I really appreciate it! I’ve just replied to another comment where the preference was for the Hastings boats! Obviously I have a vested foot in both camps and am increasingly coming round to the idea that they’re just very different sketches! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, I really appreciate it!

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    1. Hi Warren and many thanks for this and yes, I think you’re quite right about there being much more tonal variation / contrast and interest in the Hastings one. As I was writing this post, I got sidetracked. I read a lot of picture books with my daughter and I could imagine that the Hastings image could appear as an illustration in a children’s book – but the Witterings one, much less so. I quite agree with your analysis of the Hastings painting though – thanks so much for taking the time to comment!

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  4. What happened to your nice big pictures? I can’t see enough to comment on these thumbnails. I’m sure I’m missing loads of detail that you laboured over for hours on end.

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    1. haha, I promise that I wasn’t trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes Rob! I’ve been trying different ways of sizing images using the WordPress editor and obviously didn’t select the best option! I’ve just gone back to that post and have made the images larger – so hopefully you’ll be able to see a little more detail now.

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