Mending the nets (or 241!)

My holiday photos from La Continiere are proving to be a rich source of reference material. As well as my recent paintings of the boats in dry dock (of which you can see the rear of one in this photo), I was drawn to this image below. I can still vividly recall taking this picture. I was attracted to the light falling on the figure and the contrast between his turquoise shirt and the wall of the slipway.

Reference photo for mending the nets

After starting out to try to capture the entire picture, I remembered the difficulties I got into last week – in trying to include much more than is necessary to tell the story. On taking a second look at the image, I thought that a long narrow landscape crop may work well – especially with the various angles of the slipway and the harbour wall.

Reference photo cropped for mending the nets

I’d drawn this out on a half imperial sheet of paper so I erased the top half and masked off the top edge of the drawing. I quite liked the composition of the sketch but wasn’t quite sure how to tackle some of the elements – especially the figure and the nets. In working my way through this I was learning all the way, pleased with some elements – particularly with the texture on the harbour wall – less so with others: the heavy handedness of the figure and the overuse/overworking of the white gouache that I added in at the end for highlights which I got far too carried away with! There were some other fundamental errors too. If you look at where the legs end, the figure must be stood about three metres away form the net, which is also tucked under his arm – so a slight physical impossibility!

Mending the nets take one

Also, after examining the photo more closely, I could see that to really make the nets look transparent, I needed to show the contrast through the nets of where the light on the slipway meets the shadow of the harbour wall. Then there were the angles, the top of the harbour wall was too acute an angle, leaving too much of the road on the top (which led me to introduce the shadows to top and tail the image better).

So, with much learned, I thought that I should make another attempt. The space I had left on my half sheet was narrower than my first take but this, I think, suited the image more with the shallower angle of the harbour wall and a little less in the foreground.

I was mindful when sketching it out to correct the errors of the first version. I don’t know the secret to painting transparent items such as the fishing nets – so I’d welcome any advice or suggestions, but here’s how I tried to tackle the nets on this image. After washing in with lots of water and lots of pigment the harbour wall, I used a damp sponge to lift out the area behind the nets. This didn’t take the paper back to white but it did lighten the area. Once it was all dry, I put a light-ish wash of Winsor red over the whole of the nets. Once this had dried, I used some of the same Winsor red but thickly dragging some dry brushstrokes down the nets. Finally, I did the same thick mix dry brushing with some white gouache. I’m painting on Saunders Waterford Rough, so the texture of the paper really helps with this type of application.

I also managed to keep the figure a little lighter of touch and of tone which I think really helps too.

Mending the nets take two

Overall I really like these two. It was great to be able to do them in quite quick succession, and to be able to identify some of the weaknesses of the first attempt and to correct them in the second one. I really prefer the second one – with the exception of the harbour wall, where I prefer the blue-ish hue of the wall rather than the distinctly brow-ish hue of the second painting.

Mending the nets (two for one)

It’s nice to be able to see the two side by side to compare and contrast the differences.

Looking back at my original image, there’s another crop of this that, with a bit of artistic licence, I think might work as a nice portrait format image – what do you think?

Reference photo with portrait crop for mending the nets

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