This week’s post has been inspired by yet another trawl through my photography archives. I’m really pleased that I haven’t deleted any of my photos, even though at the time I took them I saw little value in them in terms of subject material. Not for the first time, I managed to fine inspiration in images that I’ve often previously overlooked – sometimes because of their subject matter or composition but often because I don’t feel confident enough to tackle a subject.

This week’s paintings are based on a number of images that, while I’ve previously paused on them, I’ve never quite been sure whether I can do them justice or not. Even after having painted them, I’m still not sure whether I can do them justice or not – but I’m going to share them here anyway!

I’m showing the images here in the order that I painted them. Each painting gave me the desire and, sometimes the confidence to tackle the next subject. I find it interesting that, as well as this being the order in which I painted them, this also happens to be my order of preference. As ever however, I’d love to hear what others think as you may well have completely different views and preferences!

First up then, a view that was close to the apartment we stayed in in the Gothic Quarter:

Barcelona street corner

Even though my expectations at the outset of this were pretty low, I’m still surprised at pleased I am with how this turned out!

There’s a lot of simplification from the original photo and I’ve moved around the figures a bit but the ‘feel’ of it, the quality of light, is petty accurate to the source material.

While the figures aren’t what I’d call my best, I decided not to meddle with them. They were all done quickly, including the shadows, and I like the looseness and energy of them and how they work to hold the attention in the composition.

This set me off in search of more untapped potential!

Sunlit Alley, Barcelona

I was attracted to this image because (as usual) the quality of the light, but also because I thought it would be challenging to try to maintain the colour harmony. To achieve something that read ok, using predominantly yellows and oranges.

I think some parts of this worked better than others, and again, I’m not so sure about all of the figures (especially the long line of figures from the right leading into the painting) but it was fun to paint this.

Here’s a different crop of it too that I think makes it a little more interesting and highlights the focal point, where there is the strongest contrast between light and dark, around the awning and figures milling around a cafe or bar.

Sunlit Alley, Barcelona (cropped)

This final one was done with incredible haste! It’s one that I felt went wrong quite early on, so much so I had a real wobble about whether to continue with it at all. I just wasn’t really ‘feeling it’ – but I’m also glad that I persevered.

By giving up hope on it quite early on, it gave me a slight devil may care attitude. I think this lead to a degree of careless heavy-handed-ness, but it also felt good to rescue it a little bit, to make a little something out of nothing.

Barcelona pedestrians

And here are the three together. I quite seeing them like this. Totally by accident, they seem to complement one another.

Barcelona on my mind…

What was also great about this was immersing myself in a different time and place – in what now seems like an unimaginably carefree time.

It still all feels such a long way away before we’ll be able to enjoy such seemingly simple pleasures!

I’m wondering if Paris might be next on my list of places to revisit!?

10 thoughts on “Barcelona on my mind watercolours

  1. My favourite is the second painting, but I like it best cropped approximately as a square…almost all of the lower section and including the slope of the right hand roof line, but excluding the vertical elements of the right hand buiding: for me that then creates a triangular skyline that corresponds well with the road shape and the resultant shape of the right side building all counteracted by the rectangular shape of the left hand buildings…all of which helps (me anyway) to see the angle of the awning above the figures, as everything else then points towards it.

    I wonder what your process is in drawing from photos, I’m sure most of us want to be out sketching and painting outside, but at present our lockdown rules seem to prevent it, so photos it is? Currently, I sketch first from a photo, then paint from the sketch – I find if the sketch isn’t good enough then I’ll lose the painting at some point, usually towards the end when I’m desperately trying to pull the elements together. If I am unsure about a photo, I often convert the photo to monochrome to see more easily if the tones and shapes add interest. But, I’d much rather sketch from life, then take a photo purely as a record than an inspiration.

    To help me, I think I must do more tonal/value painting or sketching. On the most recent painting I shared on Instagram, I felt the result was too flat, lacking in sufficient tonal range…I liked my sky, the rest, well, bleurgh!

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    1. Hi Ray and thanks for this! I wish I’d spent as much time considering that crop as it looks like you did! I’ve just had a play around based on your suggestions and I have to say, it does look good like that (and better than my tall crop!)

      Your comments about working from photos etc mainly brought to mind the little tonal studies that Andy Evansen does. He just little thumbnail sketches using just 3 values as a way of mapping out the composition. I love some of these little studies! Every time I see them I think that I should do them too (and I have no doubt that it would benefit my painting) – but I obviously lack the discipline and usually just dive straight into a painting every time. I think because I’m drawn to strong tonal contrasts, this helps me a lot!
      Don’t give yourself too hard a time either – every time we paint, we learn something!

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  2. Good to see you’re still finding time to put brush to paper despite all. I, too, spend a lot of time sifting through old digital images but there are so many that I end up not knowing which to commit to. Look after yourselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Rob. Have you ever tried picking just 5 almost at random, just ones that you quite like the look of or think you can make something of and then gradually whittling it down from those 5? I’ve done this a few times and have often found it helpful. Hope you’re as well as can be!

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  3. Hi John, just had to comment and say how exciting these compositions are. Really dynamic and for some reason, they seem to make an almost political statement. Perhaps because they have something of the workers of the world unite as they walk to work about them. Ignore, just my fancy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi David and many thanks for this, so pleased you like these and, while I happy (nay delighted!) with your interpretation of them, I can’t hand on heart say that was even close to my intention! I think I was just hankering after a nice holiday somewhere warm and sunny!

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