Brighton train station, and a watercolour rite of passage

First, a post script

Before moving on to the main substance of today’s post, first a little post-script to last week’s post where the response by some – including myself I must confess – was to question ‘where’s the roof’?  After being presented with a couple of options, one being to paint the roof, the other being to paint the sky – I plumped for the second option. Here’s a couple of before and after pictures to compare and contrast. I think on balance, I do prefer seeing the sky, although, on reflection, I’m not sure this particular blue was quite the right one to use! What the process did reiterate was how much I dislike returning to work on a painting once I feel I’ve already moved on from it. I think this may be my problem however and it’s one that I should probably just get over. On this occasion, my main priority was just to get this one out of the way and off my board so that I could get on with a new painting. As I’d already identified my next subject and was quite excited about it, I was also quite impatient to get started.

Brighton train station

I think I’ve known for a long time now that one day I would try to tackle a train station interior. I’ve seen so many train station paintings by artists that I admire that me having a go at one felt like some kind of watercolour rite of passage. For year’s now, every time I walk through my local Brighton train station, I’m looking for the light and composition that might make a painting. I’ve taken countless photos, most of which get deleted, and I’ve spent ages with my neck craned upwards to admire such an amazing feat of cast iron engineering and intricacy. All the while trying to imagine how could I paint that, how could I do it justice, how could I simplify all of that intricate geometry. Well now was my chance to find out! I had a couple of similar images to work from. I only allowed myself to look at them small so that I’d have to concentrate on the main shapes and not get distracted by all of the details. This was really helpful as it focussed me on trying to ensure that the perspective lines and overall scale of the elements were correct. The detail with the roof and glazing of the building are incredible, but I’ve had years of thinking about this, not to mention the time I’ve spent studying how others have tackled similar view, so I did have a pretty good idea of what I wanted the end painting to look like. Sadly, however, this wasn’t it!
Brighton train station (take 1)
I did quite enjoy painting this but felt a little underwhelmed by the end of it. Some parts felt overworked while others felt underworked but it just didn’t resemble closely enough the image I had in my mind’s eye. I even tried to view a different crop which, although better, still didn’t satisfy my expectations:
Brighton train station (take 1, cropped)
After having spent quite a long time sketching this first version, I now felt I understood it well enough to draw it out again quickly, and better. I also knew that there were elements of the painting itself that I needed to address. Much of this could be characterised by the need to better tread the line between accuracy and abandonment! I felt that too many of my brushstrokes felt clumsy of touch, rather than being deft and light of touch. I also needed to work harder to get the values of my washes correct first time around, rather than overworking with repeated washes. I knew then in theory how I wanted to approach the next version differently – but whether I could achieve it was entirely different!
Brighton train station
Here’s the take one and two side by side for ease of comparison:

A big day out?

Finally, after weeks of careful weather watching, the forecast at the beginning of this was looking really positive for today (Wednesday) so I took the plunge and booked a train ticket to London. All being well, as many of you may be reading this, I shall be on a Plein Air paint out in London’s St James’s Park organised by the good people behind British Plein Air Painters. It’s completely free to participate and the format is really simple: meet at the ‘Cafe Inn the Park’ at 10.30am, go off and paint, reconvene at around 4.30pm to compare notes!
This will be my first time participating in an event like this so I’m mildly nervous but mainly full of excitement and anticipation. I know the park pretty well from my time in London. I have a couple of vague vantage points in mind but nothing concrete. My main concern is how busy the park is. The likelihood of finding a little vantage point where I’m not overlooked by passersby (of which there’ll be so many) is very slim so I’ll be quite exposed! On the bright side, the weather forecast is looking great and it will be nice to meet other painters too. Hopefully, I’ll be able to regale you with tales from this adventure next week!

Thoughts on Brighton train station, and a watercolour rite of passage

18 thoughts on “Brighton train station, and a watercolour rite of passage”

  1. The train station is gorgeous. I need to go back to your car previous post as I think I missed one. I really like the feeling that you put in your final piece. The light, the perspective the people, everything has this feeling of being busy, but in a good way. The station looks like the place to be to get where you want to be. Once again, this is beautiful. Thanks.

    1. So pleased you like the train station Tim and I’m delighted that it evokes for you ‘the place to be to get where you want to be.’ – a really wonderful reaction Tim, thanks so much.

          1. I feel a kinship with you as we both love art. And I think it takes a lot of courage for us to publicly post our work. I have never done a show or public exhibit with my photos, so I greatly admire your courage. And again, the way that you take us through your creative thoughts is fascinating and helpful. So my hat’s off to you sir. Thanks.

          2. Thanks so much for this Tim, I really appreciate it – and very timely too as it’s reminded me about something I need to include in next week’s post!

  2. I suspect you’re missing smoke, big dresses, top hats, porters, luggage trolleys, farewell kisses, dogs, discarded sandwiches and urchins – and more smoke…

    1. Oh but for those halcyon days of the steam age Rob – I’m sure it would make painting so much easier and more interesting that depicting today’s electric and diesel driven engines! I still find it a great setting to try to capture and expect I’ll by returning to some view of the station again sometime soon!

      1. It really is a challenge. Rather like painting a modern waiting room with a fantastical ceiling – and nobody looking up at it, of course. I think you’ve captured that zombie-like state very well with everyone shuffling/striding towards us out of a yellow haze with all other colour greyed out… but I’m not sure it’s a pleasant sight! Perhaps you should lie on your back and paint the roof and the pillars and the pigeons – or is it seagulls you have thereabouts?
        Hope your day out lived up to expectations and, for what it’s worth, I think the addition of the sky in last week’s painting does the trick and surely it wasn’t as arduous a task as you make out.
        (Don’t feel you have to respond to this little diatribe! There are better things to do).

        1. Haha! Thanks Rob – I must confess that I’ve been so fixated on this view for purely my own reasons that I’ve never really considered whether it’s an attractive or appealing view! I can’t imagine that anyone would want to be reminded of their daily commute, and your description of my zombie like figures struck a real chord!
          Thanks so much for your suggestion last week – it wasn’t as arduous as I perhaps made out – I just find returning to a painting difficult – but I think the result was definitely worth the (small) effort! As for my plein-air adventures yesterday – yes, I had a ball! Not sure that my efforts quite matched the splendour of the day or the setting but I had a great time and look forward to sharing more about it next week!

    1. Hi Diann and thanks so much for this. It was a gloriously beautiful and inspiring day out! (whether this tranlates into paintings or not I’ll have to leave for you to decide when I post them next week!)

    1. Thanks so much Kim, I really appreciate your comments and am so pleased you like the people! I feel that they’re a constant work in progress but that they’re gradually becoming more convincing as my confidence with the grows and I become more relaxed! (I am also painfully aware that I’m tending to paint mainly male figures so I need to practice more female figures!)

  3. I like the sky. Makes all the difference. I see the roof now. I hope with a little space of time and less ants in the pants, when you come back to it you’ll like the result too. Sometimes it needs a break to come back, notice something and a stroke or two and it’s really finished.

    That train station interior is ambitious. I do like the first one cropped, but then it loses that expansive feel of the large interior.

    Best wishes for your plein air outing.

    1. Hi Mary and thanks so much for this. I do agree about the sky now I’ve had a little longer to live with it – and appreciate you pushing me towards defining that roof (I’d have left it well alone without your encouragement!) I think I’ll be revisiting the train station – as an exercise is stripping out detail to create an atmosphere, I think it’s a really interesting challenge! I’m still recovering from my plein air outing – a really wonderful day and a great experience! I’ll try to tell all next week!

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

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