From a distance…

I often find that a really successful painting works from whatever distance you view it from. Invariably, it will usually work better from a distance but often it will draw you in to look closer and still not disappoint. Less successful works however usually only work from a single viewpoint. This week’s efforts certainly fall into this category!

The setting, once again, is a square in Barcelona. The original scene was very complex and busy, so simplifying down was really important. I was particularly attracted to the play of light, and the very graphic quality of the planters in the foreground and how the light really picks out the rims. I spent quite a bit of time trying to draw these elements out in an effort to get the ellipses as accurate as possible. Other elements I only sketched in loosely and thought I’d try to tackle them as I went.

On this first effort, I got off on the wrong foot from the outset when I put a wash in for the rooftops when the sky was still damp and it cauliflowered up into the sky! I decided to persevere regardless to see what else I might learn on the way (I eventually raised the rooflines so I could paint over all of the cauliflowering!).

I painted quickly but think I confused ‘painting with confidence’ with ‘painting slapdash’ – and I think it shows too!

A watercolour painting of a square in Barcelona by John Haywood
Barcelona Square in the sunlight take 1

I think that the finished effort was so far away from my hopes and expectations that I needed to give this another go.

A watercolour painting of a square in Barcelona by John Haywood
Barcelona Square in the sunlight take 2

While this still has many flaws (most of them a little too obvious for my liking!) – from a distance it does read okay. The central umbrellas and background buildings are all much better, and it does convey the sense of a brightly lit square that I was after. As soon as it comes under any closer scrutiny however, it’s a different story! I think the handling of figures, although an improvement on the first effort, is still rudimentary and laboured.

What I have realised through this recent experience, however, is how far I’ve come with my painting. Not so long ago I would often do two, three or sometimes four versions of the same scene before producing something that I was reasonably satisfied with. More recently, however, I’ve often been able to stop after my first effort feeling sufficiently pleased to move on to another subject.

I suppose that, much like viewing a painting from a distance, taking a step back and looking at my painting trajectory from a distance is also a healthy thing to do every now and then!

Thoughts on From a distance…

5 thoughts on “From a distance…”

  1. Pingback: Watercolour painting progress –

  2. Thank you for sharing these progressive paintings, John! The dry-brush work on the second painting is very nice, and I like that there is more of a gradation in the middleground wash, i.e. around the people. They are spot-on! I also really appreciate your comment on taking a step back to review ones development in painting. That’s so helpful.

    1. Thanks so much Antje – I really appreciate your comments – especially as I still feel a little disappointed when I look at these two in isolation! When I look back to paintings of two or three years ago however, it helps put them into some context! Thanks again for taking the time to get in touch.

        1. Thanks so much Antje – that really means a lot to me to hear that! Look forward to keeping up to date with you more too! 🙏🏻😁

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