Without wishing to start off on a bleak note, I’m fully anticipating that 2020 is going to be a tough old year. This is primarily for personal reasons that have nothing to do with painting, but is nevertheless the main motivation behind one of my new year resolutions to ‘sort out some holidays’.
There are two reasons for this:
- It’s always nice to have things to look forward to
- Left too late, even the process of organising holidays can become a cause of stress (not to mention even greater expense!)
Now I’ve already got my Alvaro Castagnet watercolour masterclass sorted, which is obviously great, but that’s not until May!
This post is my mini celebration of a trip that we’ve just booked to Valencia early in April for Easter. So far we’ve only booked the flights but that alone is a cause for great rejoicing and anticipation!
Even though I’ve probably visited Valencia more than most other places in Europe, I still don’t feel I know it well. This could also be due to my increasingly unreliable memory too, but I definitely haven’t visited Valencia since I picked up my brushes again so I’m really looking forward to returning and seeing it through my watercolour lens.
To whet my visual appetite, I did a quick search for some images of Valencia with a view to doing a quick celebratory painting. Here’s the image that struck a chord with me, of Valencia’s Plaza de la Virgin:
First I did a black and white print out of this, which I then worked into with my Copic marker pens and white gel pen.
This was about trying to simplify the image into some more basic shapes, knock back some of the details and decide the main areas of focus. Once I’d done this, I used this image to do another sketch, this time from scratch but again using the copic markers and white gel pen:
I can’t deny that I really like both of these treatments, and each one seemed to move me further away from the original reference photograph. I’m also enjoying doing these sketches because as I’m playing around with them, I’m thinking about how will I tackle the view with paint. What colours, what effect, will that particular element be best with a hard edge or a soft edge. All of the images that follow were based purely on these black and white sketches. Once I had these, I didn’t refer back to the original source photograph.
Here’s the ‘finished’ painting:
I say ‘finished’ because, although there are parts of this that I really like, I couldn’t help but think that I could do it better.
The parts I particularly liked were the buildings in the background and, generally the loose indication of any architectural detailing. What I felt let it down a little were the figures, perhaps too large an expanse of emptiness leading into the picture, and a slight over reliance on the use of some titanium white for the odd white shirt and highlight around the place. Here’s how I got on with my second take, starting with the all-important preliminary sketch:
Next up was the first wash. I was keen to get a better colour unity on this painting than on the first. For instance, on first painting, the building the left is an entirely different colour to any of the other buildings. This was done purposefully to indicate the bright light that was falling on it, but this time round I wanted to convey the bright light, but also that the building was perhaps built of similar materials to the other buildings. I also wanted to leave more of the white of the paper for highlights / white clothing etc rather than trying to ‘recover’ these later using white paint.
Once dry, I started to strengthen the buildings in the background leaving the original wash in some places to indicated where the light was hitting. This passage carried on down the right hand side to where I wanted to loosely indicate some figures in the immediate foreground.
While this was drying, I put a pale blue wash over the ground area and started to put in the architectural detailing on to the building on the left and, as it dried, the background buildings.
At this point I started to move a little more fluidly around the painting depending on which areas were dry and what took my fancy. I did paint in some lines on the floor that I thought would help lead the eye in, and create a sense of it being constructed of large polished tiles or blocks of marble. My plan was to paint in the vertical lines, then overlay them with some horizontal ones that would also help with the sense of perspective.
It did all begin to look a little too harsh and distracting however so I ended up softening the whole effect. While not perhaps as I’d originally intended, I was quite pleased with how it eventually turned out, and I definitely think it makes for a more interesting foreground than on the first painting.
Here’s the final version of ‘Place de la Virgin, Valencia’ (take 2):
The figures were all done as loosely as I felt able, along with the main street lights. I was pleased to have retained the white of the paper for these elements as it gave me more flexibility for how I treated them, leaving some areas bright white and knocking some back with a colour or some shadow. Finally came the shadow across the very front of the foreground and then the shadows of the figures, lampposts etc. After this, I did use the odd bit of titanium white for the odd hightlight, but I was able to be much more sparing and discerning than in the first version.
And, for ease of comparison, the two side by side:
I do like aspects of both these paintings but I think that the second one is the more ‘complete’ of the two in terms of composition and treatment. As ever I’d be delighted to hear what others may think about the relative merits or otherwise of these two paintings!
I have really enjoyed the processes behind both of these. I’m particularly encouraged by the initial sketches (that in the past I usually forego in favour of just getting on with some painting). I found the sketches enjoyable to do, helpful in my planning my paintings and even rewarding just to look at in their own right! It’s also been great just spending time looking at a view of Valencia!
It’s wonderfully exciting to be able to look forward to visiting Valencia again and I’m especially looking forward to finding myself stood on exactly the same spot that this week’s painting is based on!
Until next time… or, thanks to Google translate, Hasta la proxima vez!