Weekend washout

Well, my much-anticipated camping trip to Wales ended up slightly different to how I imagined it! For the first time in as long as I can remember we let the weather beat us. We still went to Wales with every intention of pitching the tent but the forecast was so unremittingly bleak that we decided to cancel. We still had a great time catching up with friends, but we also took the decision to leave early and return home.

The plus side of this, rather selfishly I confess, was that I was able to try out some new brushes that I was very excited about. I recently bought 3 Alvaro Castagnet mop brushes, sizes 10, 6 and 4 on E-bay (although other auction sites are available!) but hadn’t had chance to paint with them yet. This, I figured, was my silver lining to my cloudy weekend!

Alvaro Castagnet Neef watercolour brushes sizes 10, 6 and 4

The brushes look and feel great, beautifully balanced and the bristles hold a great shape, broad in the belly and longer than most of my other mop brushes. As you can see from the photo, they also come to a wonderful surgically precise point.

I think my excitement and the unexpected time at the easel got the better of me and, much like the weather, everything I tried to paint was a complete washout! I had a couple of views in mind, starting with a very weather appropriate view looking east along Brighton seafront.

Red flag day, Brighton beach looking east

I didn’t really enjoy or get on with this painting, so thought I’d try a different beach scene.

Beach day

With both of these, I felt I was galloping along, much more interested in the brushes than in the subject matter or how to portray it. I was also rushing, trying to be carefree but mainly being careless. To say by the end of these two efforts that I was disappointed and disillusioned is an understatement!

I decided that it was probably best to just cut my losses and stop painting.

The weekend threw up one more chance to redeem itself on the painting front. I don’t know what possessed me to try it, but I opted for a scene from our whistle-stop visit to Wales. It was of a vineyard – something I’d never previously associated Wales with! – that we paid a brief visit to on a day of intermittent rain and sun. I took quite a few reference photos and selected one that I thought had potential, even though I wasn’t clear in my mind how to paint it!

I also painted on a half sheet – which made a lot of difference. The quarter sheets felt too small using the new brushes, (which are all substantially proportioned brushes) especially when I’m still trying to settle in with them.  I did a quick sketch, just to outline the main shapes and then just started throwing the paint down and trying to enjoy it rather than fear it or become precious about it.

Sugarloaf vineyard, (with the Blorenge in the background)

I was working pretty quickly so there are quite a few wet into wet passages, especially in the background hill and more distant trees. When it came to the vines, I first started with a bit of fiddling about as I wasn’t quite clear how I might capture them! Suffice to say, my fiddling didn’t produce anything remotely vine-like, or give me any pleasure in the process. More in frustration than expectation, I started to use the brush to flick paint onto the paper. This sounds very random, but I assure you that was done with a modicum of aim and intention!  I varied the colour mixes frequently and worked quickly and was surprised to see the vines – or at least an interpretation of them – beginning to appear!

I probably did get a bit carried away with this and I was splattering paint all over the place. It did, however, feel bold and fun and compared to fiddling or dabbing about, it seemed to give the painting a sense of spirit and liveliness. While the vines were drying off a bit, I strengthened the mid-distance trees and darks which also helped to define the tops of the vines catching the light. Finally, once the vines had dried off, I added in some dark dry brush strokes.

Now I know that this is no masterpiece, but there’s a lot I like about it and I feel that I learnt a lot while I was painting it. If nothing else, it brought the bank holiday weekend to a close on a more positive, less washed out note, so much so that I think I’ll have another crack at this one to see if I can improve on it.

Thoughts on Weekend washout

32 thoughts on “Weekend washout”

  1. Pingback: Sketching back to happiness… –

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    1. Hi Keith and thanks for looking me up! The brushes are great but I must confess that they’re taking some getting used to! Reckon it’ll be a little while before I start to get the best from them but, for better or for worse, I’m pretty stubborn when it comes to perseverance! Thanks again Keith, a pleasure to ‘meet’ you and I hope you’re also back at the easel!?

      1. Getting back slowly John. I also have Alvaro Castagnet’s book, Watercolour Masterclass if your interested, it’s a lovely illustrated book and will help you with your painting i’m sure ? keith ps not via ebay though eh haha.

        1. Glad to hear you’re getting back into it Keith and yes, I would be interested in adding another Alvaro book to the library. If you drop me a message via any of the contact forms on this site we could discuss it further! Many thanks Keith

  3. Hello John,
    I’ve been reading your blog and looking at your paintings for some time now, and find your emails very interesting! I really like the first beach scene – it has real atmosphere – vast desolated cold wet splendour. Perfect 🙂
    Best wishes,

    1. Hi Emma, many thanks for getting in touch and for such kind and generous comments, all much appreciated! I’m really surprised (pleasantly!) to the reaction to that beach scene you like – I’m usually drawn to much brighter scenes with strong shadows etc but I can see that I’m going to have to try a few more like this one! Thanks again for getting in touch Emma

    1. Thanks so much for this! I’m pleased I posted these because there was a point when I was so disappointed with them that I wasn’t going to bother! How wrong was I!

    1. Haha – yes! I loved the brushes! To be honest I mainly used the number 4, the smallest of the three. They’ll all take some getting used to and I think part of my frustration was feeling that I wasn’t able to paint anything that did the brushes justice – which is all entirely the wrong way around! I’m looking forward to becoming very good friends with them though!

    2. Maybe you remember from the old Disney studio where a brush went across the screen and the painting just magically flowed down from it…now that’s the brush I’m looking for!

      Please review if you find it 😀

      1. Haha – I know exactly the brush you mean and yes, of course, should I ever find one I’ll definitely be writing a review of it! (Although where would the challenge be with such a brush!) 😀

  4. I really like the Brighton Beach picture. It captures the feel of a wet day at the seaside. The sky could be made a bit more interesting (Sego was a master of this) but that’s only a minor quibble. It’s the atmosphere of the picture that is it’s real strength.

    1. Hi Mike and thanks so much for this – so pleased you like this one! I agree, both about the sky and Seago’s brilliance! so might yet try another version of this scene to see if I can’t improve on it! Really appreciate your comments though as I was feeling down on this one!

  5. I’m afraid I actually prefer your “failed” beach scenes. The first is really wild and I particularly like the flags slapping in the wind. The second only needs an old couple huddled behind a wind-break to fill up that foreground and you’d have a masterpiece on your hands! However, the vineyard is of interest to me because my aged uncle lives somewhere between your viewpoint and the Blorenge. Unfortunately, I don’t think he’s the type to buy paintings!

    1. Hi Rob and thanks for this – and for providing some well-needed perspective on my failures! I think the first beach scene is just a little too bleak for me (although perhaps it’s because I’ve become a little too accustomed to / reliant on my contre-jour scenes!) On the second, I quite like some of the textures in foreground sand, but not the sky, nor the distant land mass that’s bled into the sky, nor the figures (I could go on!) but I like your suggestion of people huddling from the wind as a helpful addition. I’ll definitely be returning to the vineyard view so hope that my next version may be more appealing to you (although probably not your uncle!)

        1. Thanks Margaret and I can tell that I’m going to have to seriously re-evaluate all of my opinions about my own work! As for the brushes, yes – I can already tell that they’re great quality (but buying them new, they also carry quite a hefty price tag!)

          1. They’re definitely a good investment – and even when you add it all up – painting in watercolour still comes in a lot cheaper than most people’s passions!

          2. Well I do doubt that the value of all my paints, brushes and paper would make much of a dent against one of your beloved Harleys!😉

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