Watercolour painting of a rainy day in Paris by artist John Haywood

Rainy day, Paris, watercolour

Despite, or perhaps because of my overwhelming ‘to-do’ list in order to empty and vacate our flat so we can get a new floor installed, I felt I still had to carve out a little bit of watercolour time! This particular choice of subject, a rainy day in an iconic city looking down a car strewn street almost feels a little clichéd. It’s the kind of scene that other much more talented painters that I have, in a way, ‘made their own’. This fact alone made me um and ah a little before committing. Ultimately, however, just because someone else has painted something, no matter how well they may have conveyed the scene, it doesn’t follow that they ‘own’ it. Also, when there’s so much to be learnt with every painting, I don’t think we should deny ourselves any choice of subject. If a scene, takes our fancy, enthuses, speaks to us or resonates in some way with us, then I think we should all feel encouraged to give it a go. After all, what’s the worst that can happen, it’s only some paint, paper and a bit of time!

Sermon over, here’s a ‘Rainy day, Paris’, presented in the order that I did them. First up came a black and white print out of the source image that I overworked:

Overworked black and white reference photo

As well as using my Copic marker pens, I also used some colour too, just for a change and to see how it worked. As I’ve found before, I really enjoy this process of knocking back the details and simplifying the scene, all the while thinking about how I’ll paint it.

Rainy day, Paris – watercolour

This is one of those paintings that does actually look a lot better than it appears backlit and up-close a screen. Without the backlighting, and from across a room, this does read ok. That’s about it, however! It was fun to do, and I didn’t get caught up in lots of details – but nor did I execute the rest of it with the necessary energy and finesse to make this really work.

Cars don’t feature in many of my paintings, so I was relatively pleased that the foreground cars did read as cars. I also went around the houses about whether to use any white paint at the end for the headlights and reflections. In the end, I decided not to bother, though I still don’t know if this was the right decision or not!

In characteristic cart before horse fashion – after completing this painting I thought I’d do a quick sketch of it:

Rainy day, Paris – Copic markers sketch

I think I prefer the looseness and more impressionistic feel off this sketch to the painting. Maybe if I’d done this sketch before the painting, the whole thing would have worked out differently!

While the painting of this motif is a little disappointing, I don’t feel at all discouraged. I daresay I’ll be doing more of these views, I love cities, and I love many paintings of them, so I may as well get used to the idea of painting more of them for myself!

Itinerant watercolour reading

As I’m now in my temporary housing arrangements, I brought with me a recent purchase to keep me company. ‘Sketching and Painting Indoors’ from the ‘How to do it Series’. It’s a delightful book, illustrated by Rowland Hilder with text by Percy Bradshaw.

The dust jacket is a little battered but, for a first edition, originally published in 1956, it’s in perfectly acceptable condition!  Long term readers will be aware of my admiration for Rowland Hilder’s work and this book features a lot of sketches that I hadn’t previously seen before. What particularly appealed about this book were all the black and white tonal sketches and studies. I saw this book at the same time that I purchased the set of grey copic marker pens that I’m enjoying using at the moment, and thought this book would complement them admirably. 

Here are a couple of page spreads that I hope will convey what attracted me to buy this book:

It’s filled with similar little examples and studies and is a real joy to leaf through. What strikes you is that Hilder must rarely have had a moment when he didn’t have a pen, pencil, brush or sharpened twig in his hand!

One chapter that I particularly enjoy is where he describes making models and creating sets which can be lit from different angles that can then be used as a basis for paintings. The use of damp sand in the foreground which can be given different textures and, when lit correctly creates wonderful effects, suggestive of all manner of different foliage or things happening in the landscape. Another example was placing a model boat onto a mirror, really simple and constructively helpful ideas for how to advance your landscape painting even when you can’t actually be in the landscape.

Can’t see a farmhouse from your window? That’s fine, the book provides a little template so that you can cut out and construct your own out of cardboard!

Sadly I don’t see that I’ll ever be adopting this model-making route – I think it’s likely to bring back too many painful childhood memories of trying to create scenery for the model railway I had!

I recall lots of painted bits of sponge stuck onto small hawthorns. As I think about this, I’m also recalling chicken wire bent and formed over scrunched up balls of paper with papier-mâché applied over the top! I’m going to have to go now before I recall anything further!

What the book does help to do however is to reinvigorate a commitment to sketching. With my paints of reach for the next couple of weeks, I look forward to immersing myself in this book, and to spending some time sketching!

Thoughts on Rainy day, Paris, watercolour

11 thoughts on “Rainy day, Paris, watercolour”

  1. Great post again, John. I really like your advice about just going through with your painting even if it has done many times before. I think this applies equally well to photography. Each of us brings our own skills and interpretation into a scene, so each scene is always unique.

    I also really like your “simplification” approach. It gives your painting an upbeat style. We photographers can’t “simplify away” unwanted foreground or background details. 😥 But, we can apply this principal in our composition and subject matter. This really makes me think about my photography. I love how I learn more my following your blog. Thanks, and best of luck with the remodeling project.

    1. Thanks so much Tim – I hadn’t really thought before of how lucky I am to be able to use such sweeping artistic licence in my paintings that, for a photographer, is out of your reach! I’ll try to remember that next time I’m bemoaning how difficult I’m finding something!

      1. Ha ha! Well that wasn’t really my point, but well said. I was more thinking out loud so to speak that your ability to simplify and de-clutter was so useful when conveying a specific feeling, mood, etc.

        However, while we photographers can’t do the same per se, we can use that same lesson and principals. I was thinking that I should pay more attention to those details while composing. Yes, I love your blog because I both admire your work and I always learn something. Thanks, John! 🙂

  2. I agree, I really like your sketch, very expressive and carefree. I commend you for painting that city scene. I think that I would break out in hives just thinking about it. Sounds like you are allowing some adventure with having your floor done. That’s the attitude! I always enjoy a hitch or two, not the “oh crap” kind though lol. I have been wanting to get more into sketching, I might follow along with you but in my own way obviously. Alright, got to get going on with my day. Cheers!

    1. Thanks Margaret – the sketching is fun to do but I still haven’t completely shaken off the shackles of wanting my sketches to be good sketches, rather than just sketching for the pleasure of it regardless of the outcome! Hopefully it will all, in the long run, benefit my painting!

      1. Haha that chase for perfection also known as “good” and of course you realize that all depends what you deem as good! Chase the fun relaxed part, I say! It is hard to turn around I know. Have a wonderful rest of your week and carry on.

    1. Thanks so much for this. I’m really enjoying the Copic pens and hope that I can really get into the habit of using them as I think they could really benefit my painting. So sorry to hear that they’re so pricey where you are!

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

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