If this sounds like the beginning of a particularly poor joke, I fear it may be one at my own expense…
…impoverished watercolour painter walks into a swanky restaurant. Sits at the bar. Orders a coffee. Finishes coffee. Orders the bill. Whhaatttt!! Surely somebody somewhere must be joking! £4.44 for a coffee!?
The longer story is that I recently had the opportunity to pop my head into a restaurant that I’ve never visited before but had heard was quite swit-swoo (if a tad pricey!): The Ivy in The Lanes, Brighton.
I was there mid-morning on a weekday and, as it was quite quiet, I was allowed to sit at the bar and order myself a coffee. It’s hard to know whether it was the salubrious surroundings or just the rarity of having some time just to myself to sit and enjoy the solitude and the luxurious surroundings but I whiled away a quite lovely half an hour or so.
Naturally my motivations for visiting were primarily painting related! Because I wasn’t familiar with the interior, I wanted to see whether it may provide me with any painting opportunities. So, while relaxing at bar, I was also looking around and taking a few photographs of anything that caught my fancy.
Reviewing my photos later, I wasn’t particularly convinced that I had any material to work with. The whole place is very brightly lit and visually, it’s incredibly busy. There were however a couple of photographs I had of the bar area that I liked the composition of. Here’s an example of one that I took without any people in it.
Now despite taking lots of photos that I eventually paint from on a phone, I’ve never really used the photo editing software to manipulate any images.
Well, what a revelation! I still have absolutely no idea what I’m doing and the array of options for what you can change is quite mind boggling, but it was really helpful in terms of accentuating tonal areas and contrasts.
I played around with a couple of photos, then chose one that I liked the look of most and printed it out in black and white. I then used my copic pens and white gel pen to work into the image a little more:
I used this as my basis for the painting. I didn’t take any work in progress shots of this painting, partly because I fully anticipated doing another version and partly because the time I had to paint this in was quite fractured. Because of the monochromatic nature of the image, I decided from the outset that I would limit myself to only ultramarine blue, burnt sienna and, to finish, some titanium white
So there’s not gentle lead in to this week’s image where you can see it gradually evolve – it’s just a fast-track to the finale:
Now if anyone has looked at The Ivy’s gallery of images – you’ll quickly be able to tell that I’ve taken some considerable liberties with the lighting! I certainly don’t think that this is in any way a portrayal of the bar at The Ivy.
What I am pleased with however is that it does read as a bar! (Probably a bar that I’d be much more inclined to visit than the one at The Ivy too!) It’s also one of those paintings that looks significantly better from a distance than from close up!
I think I’m most pleased about the areas of contrast. I can appreciate that it may not be obvious, but the bright areas over the top of the bar are the lights shining through lots and lots of glasses. I was quite daunted at how best to treat these without getting caught up in trying to paint each individual glass! I think for a first effort this worked out quite well. I also liked parts of the surface of the bar. I stayed purposefully clear of trying to add in too much detail about all of the place settings that were on the bar, choosing instead to try to just suggest them. I thought that trying to paint each plate, knife and fork would most likely become a distraction from the overall feel of the painting – due in part no doubt on my lack of conviction that I could paint them in the way that I might like to!
While there’s a lot that I like to think I could do better with if I were to tackle this scene again, there’s also a lot about this painting that I like – particularly the sense of energy and atmosphere. Suffice to say that I expect I’ll be returning to my version of the bar at The Ivy much sooner that I’ll be returning to the real version, especially at £4.44 for a cappuccino – even if it was an exceptionally nice one!