A frustrating watercolour duo!

After last week’s Regent’s Street painting, I was keen to crack on with this next view of Picadilly Circus in central London. The reference photo was taken on the same day as last week’s reference photo – early in the morning on a crisp clear day, with a low sun, long shadows and not many people about. Remarkably, I also remembered to do some work in progress photos. Here’s how I got on.

Initial drawing

I was quite pleased with this drawing. I thought it struck a reasonable balance between suggesting some architectural detail without going in to too much detail.

Adding the sky

In last week’s painting, I left the sky until the end. I would have liked to have done the same with this one too but I was a little concerned about the risk of some of the rooftop elements and the statue bleeding. looking at this view now, I quite like the drama of this…

First wash

Once the sky was dry I washed in a pale bluey grey over the buildings, darkening it as I moved into the foreground. My intention at this stage was to keep it quite monochrome.

2nd wash

I then added in some of the darker shadows that define the main architectural elements. I think I went in a little too strong with these. I also began to think that the buildings looked a little too cold so thought I’d best try to warm them up a little.

Yet another wash!

This felt a little better, though I was already beginning to wonder what this would look like if I’d gone in with a warm wash across the buildings first, and then try to cool that one down with some greys later on.

Beginning to move into the details

Once these washes were dry, I started on some dry brush work on the Statue of Eros. I really enjoyed this part, the suggestion of the form with just some simple brush strokes, then adding on some water and watching the colours run a little, bleeding a little here, separating a little there, lovely stuff!

Final wash, adding details and figures

This continued down into the steps and then to adding in the foreground figures. I think that it was around this point that I felt that the foreground needed a little beefing up, and added in a darker purplish shadow. Sadly I think this was only served to muddy the foreground up a little.

Here’s how I left it:

Watercolour painting of 'Picadilly Circus, London and the Statue of Eros' by John Haywood
Finished ‘Picadilly Circus, London and the Statue of Eros’

The more I looked at this, the more I wanted to do it again. Partly because I enjoyed painting the view, and partly because I was sure I could do it better.

This time, I got so caught up in what I was doing that I totally forgot to document the stages. One difference was that I spent a little longer on drawing this one out, and feel it’s a little sounder for it in terms of perspective and scale. I also tried to complete this in fewer washes, and to be a little lighter of touch. Most of this worked out. Sadly, despite my best efforts, I don’t think the painting of the silhouetted statue was as fresh and interesting as the first painting.

Watercolour painting take two of 'Picadilly Circus, London and the Statue of Eros' by John Haywood
‘Picadilly Circus, London and the Statue of Eros’ take two

Weighing the two up side by side, I really like elements of both of them, but still feel frustrated that I haven’t cracked this one yet. I just need to spend a little time now working out how I can do this again, and exactly what I need to do to make it work better!

I posted both of these up onto instagram and received some really helpful constructive advice, all of which I’m hoping will prove beneficial when I next try to tackle this scene – hopefully it will be a case of third time lucky!

Thoughts on A frustrating watercolour duo!

5 thoughts on “A frustrating watercolour duo!”

  1. Pingback: Dieppe, Normandy, watercolour –

  2. I liked the first silhouette of Eros too. Really sharp and dramatic against the skyline. i didn’t get the impression that the foreground had gone muddy. Too much detail would have taken from the effect of the statue, I think

    1. Thanks so much David – really appreciate this! I do have another approach in mind but it will still rely on trying to recreate a similar approach to the statue!

I'd love to hear any thoughts you have about this

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