Blue sky Barcelona in watercolour

I’ve been struggling of late with a landscape challenge set by the great Jem Bowden. It’s something that I feel is worth persevering with as Jem is offering one of his original paintings as a prize. Without wishing to increase the competition for this, should anyone be interested in tackling the challenge, you can find out more in Jem’s recent blog post. Sadly I don’t feel that anything I’ve done to date adequately rises to the challenge!

So after what seemed like a few wasted hours of flailing around with a few brushes, I decided that I needed to try something else that felt a bit more natural to me, or at least a subject a little more of my choosing.  I still have a large stack of photographs from our trip to Barcelona earlier this year that I’ve put to one side as potential subject matter and the source image that I plumped for just happened to be on top of the pile. I didn’t give it that much consideration, but knew that I particularly liked the intensity of the sky and the silhouetted tall palm.

I sketched this out super quick, and was pleased with how much detail I felt able to omit but still arrive at a decent composition. Compared to the landscape that I’d been laboring over, it felt like a really liberating treat to be tackling this subject – which I did with considerable gusto.

Watercolour painting, Near the Parc De La Ciutadella, Barcelona (take 1) by John Haywood
Near the Parc De La Ciutadella, Barcelona (take 1)

At first I was really pleased with this – mainly because I enjoyed painting it so much, so the spirit in which it was painted deeply affected how I saw it. The longer I looked at it however, the more I started to pick up on things that I had doubts about.

First of these was the sky. The blue of the sky wasn’t quite intense enough (it actually looks more intense in the photo above than on the painting). I decided that I had nothing to lose by running another wash, just over the sky area to see if I could correct this. I was a little concerned about the palm tree running or bleeding so was mindful to make sure it was completely dry before I glazed over the top of the sky with another wash of blue.

This is how it looked after the sky had been intensified:

Watercolour painting, Near the Parc De La Ciutadella, Barcelona (take 1 - with more sky blue) by John Haywood
Near the Parc De La Ciutadella, Barcelona (take 1 – with more sky blue)

This did feel better, and seemed to make more sense of the shadows… but again, the more I looked at this, the more unsure I felt about it. The shadows were too dark but the real clincher was realising how out of proportion everything was. The figures are just far too small!

I find that once I’ve seen such a fundamental flaw – I find it difficult to see anything else except the flaw!

As I’d enjoyed painting this subject so much – I decided that the best thing to do is just start again from scratch. So I did.

Here’s the second attempt. As the nights are closing in I had to break out my daylight lamp for the first time in a while but I felt like the wind was in my sails and I had to carry on painting until this one was done.

I intentionally went in much heavier with the sky at the outset and tried to maintain the same spirit and freedom of the first painting.

Watercolour painting, near the Parc De La Ciutadella, Barcelona by John Haywood
Near the Parc De La Ciutadella, Barcelona

Having now tackled this subject twice – and enjoyed it on both occasions, I’m tempted to have another go at it, but this time to try to warm the picture up but applying a subtle warm wash across the whole painting first before I start applying anything else. I really think that this would help to lift this subject to another level.

I’d also like to consider having the figures approaching the viewer rather than walking away as I think they would provide more contrast, and I think I can also improve on the shadows too.

Seen in isolation I’m generally pretty pleased with this second effort however, as I recall was so often the case with my school reports, there remains ‘considerable room for improvement!’



Thoughts on Blue sky Barcelona in watercolour

1 thought on “Blue sky Barcelona in watercolour”

  1. Pingback: Unfinished watercolour business… –

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