A few weeks ago, when I was experiencing one of my periodic / all too frequent watercolour painting dilemmas of: ‘what should I paint? In fact, why do I even bother painting’ – I wondered whether there’d be any value in revisiting some of my favourite paintings from the past to paint them again. If I recall correctly, my plan had been to use my original painting as the basis for a new painting, rather than referring back to the original source material. My hope in this was to reboot a painting that I know I like, but hopefully, paint it differently based on everything that I’ve learnt in the interim. I do still like this as an idea, but I hadn’t realised quite how impractical it is too. At the moment, most of my ‘favourite’ paintings are currently under wraps in storage and, while not totally inaccessible, it’s certainly sufficiently inconvenient to be off-putting!
I had in mind a painting that I did following a trip to Barcelona back in 2017. It was a wonderful holiday, I totally fell for Barcelona and it has been the inspiration for many paintings. In my mind, I could vividly recall painting this particular picture and could still ‘see it’ clearly. For this exercise then, I did refer fleetingly to the original photo, but mainly as an aide-memoire rather than something to ‘copy’.
My plan was to paint the scene again without referring at all to the original painting, or indeed any photos of it, and then to compare and contrast. To make it a little more interesting, there was one fundamental difference.
My first painting was a half sheet, painted on 280lb/600gsm Saunders Waterford rough. This was from a pack that I’d ordered in error. I usually paint on 140lb/300gsm and the 600gsm paper feels like card in comparison! Don’t get me wrong, it’s lovely paper and, as I discovered can take an absolute soaking, but it’s also crazily expensive!
My new effort was going to be painted on a quarter sheet of 140lb / 300 gsm Saunders Waterford Rough High White (my current paper of choice) that had been stretched on a Ken Bromley Perfect Paper Stretcher. I’ve been using my Ken Bromley quarter sheet and half sheet stretcher for all of my recent paintings and have been thoroughly enjoying the stretched surface for painting on – even if the results don’t often feel any better than many of my un-stretched paintings!
First up, my latest effort:
To be compared with my original effort of December 2017
And, side by side:
I can’t deny that, on seeing these two side by side for the first time, I’m a little disappointed! Somehow my new painting doesn’t look two years’ worth of painting better than the original – as I had hoped it might!
I am however trying to convince myself to overlook this as there’s still much I like about both paintings. My current negotiating position is that the first one was ahead of its time, and the second one may be slightly behind my painting ability curve – so in real terms, the difference is perhaps more like one year rather than two… which at my age is barely the blink of an eye!
It is fair to say that both were painted very differently – and I’m pleased that both still evoke quite vividly a particular memory. I’d be interested to hear if others have any preferences between these two takes on the same scene?
A mount within a mount
Returning the theme of Ken Bromley stretched paper versus non-stretched paper, one of my quibbles was the fact that all of the mounts that I already have cut to ‘non-stretched’ size would now be redundant. Using the paper stretcher means that I lose about and extra 12mm on each edge of the painting, compared to just taping my paper down with masking tape.
This hasn’t been troubling me too much of late, mainly because I don’t really feel that I’ve painted anything worthy of putting a mount around. This changed last week with my view of an Anvil Cloud over Brighton Marina. This was painted on a quarter sheet that had been Ken Bromleyed. I think I’m going to get this painting scanned in rather than using my phone to photograph it (which is what most use for most of my photographs) as so far, I’ve struggled to get a decent representation of it (that’s my excuse anyway!). I was, however, keen to see what this may look like in a mount.
Fortunately, the ‘interior left-overs’ from my half sheet paintings are large enough for me to use for this size of paper, to create a double mount. It was more by luck than judgement that when I created the new mount, that it seemed to work pretty well to just sit inside my original mount with the larger window. I appreciate that this could sound very confusing for something that really is quite simple. Here’s picture then that I hope will help to make sense of my babbling:
Hopefully, you can see from this how much painting I lose around the edges by using the paper stretcher.
I usually only use a single mount but, for these slightly smaller paintings, this does mean that I have the option of recycling some of my existing mounts alongside some of my leftover mount-board, to create what I think is quite an elegant mount that will hopefully complement some of my future paintings!