Bartender, watercolour

After quite a few weeks of feeling a little ‘meh’ about my watercolour painting, it’s so nice to post something and feel a little more upbeat!

In search of inspiration I returned to my Barcelona album. It’s an album that’s been well trawled in the past but we had such a fabulous time there I thought it might be worth revisiting.

We spent one of our mid morning pit-stops inside a cafe/bar. It was pretty hot outside and the bar was dark and cool by comparison. I took quite a few photos from inside the bar looking towards the bright sunshine outside. I’d already earmarked a few of these photos for potential subject matter some time ago but neither the urge or my confidence has led me to paint this so far!

On this occasion, I found a totally different view that I’d previously overlooked completely and I just thought, ‘yes, that’s the one!’

I sketched this out and applied this first wash really quickly. I knew that I’d be going a lot darker in many areas so the main aim of this wash was to establish the lights and give myself a good foundation.

First wash

This gave me enough to work with so that from this point onwards, I could focus purely on the painting rather than having to keep referring back to my reference photo (although I did on occassion look back at the original picture just to check on the odd element here and there!)

Once the first wash was dry, I started to strengthen some of darker areas:

Establishing some darks and the main focal point

At this point, I took a quick break just to step back from the painting, take stock and plan out my next steps. I was feeling relatively happy with how the main central elements were looking so moved on to some of the other areas, especially the walls on either side and the picture frames.

Some dry brush detailing



I’m pretty pleased with how this one turned out. Overall, I like the colour harmony (though I know it won’t be to everyone’s liking!), a good tonal range, a variety of different edges – soft, hard, lost and found – and some energy to some of the brushstrokes.

Also – extra bonus points – it didn’t take me very long to paint so I had plenty of time to spend an afternoon with the family rock-pooling as the sun went went down just a few miles along the coast at Saltdean.

Watching the sun go down at Saltdean

Thoughts on Bartender, watercolour

10 thoughts on “Bartender, watercolour”

  1. Pingback: Spring cleaning watercolour paintings

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  3. John, glad you’re fighting the ‘slump’! Hope my comments do not discourage you but can’t help myself! Praise is nice but not helpful in the long run. The focus of your painting is the bar tender standing in a confined area depending heavily on perspective which you usually handle well. In this painting though it really suffers! It is confusing to the viewer; does the counter go all the way to the windows? Why do the doors open ONTO the counter? It’s correct on the right but so wrong on the left where the strong white line of a shelf supporting the paintings draws the eye away from the center of interest (the head) and falls to the floor! You are the artist and you can hang those paintings, which are not important anyway, and not confuse things by having them tilted at an angle?
    Then there’s the man himself; his right arm is the center of interest being well done and the only color in your painting. It is opposite the light source but the brightest object whereas the HEAD is not included reflecting that 2nd light source and is in fact the head of a monster! It’s all squished as if run over front to back and not lit as is the arm! I find that totally disconcerting! It need not be completely defined but he could have a correct shape and some color as in the arm, not be so deformed!
    On a more positive vein, none of us ever paints a winner every time! At least you are PAINTING and that’s what counts, so don’t allow this to depress you! Hope you can see what I mean in a helpful way! Fall is in the air with cooler days here awaiting the brilliant colors of fall foliage! Just wish the fires and hurricanes would end, it’s been an awful year for both! Especially Along the southern coast where I lied just 5 years ago this month! I lived where this week’s latest one hit devastating the Gulf coast I knew so well!…with a new one to hit tomorrow farther west! God is surely speaking to us all!

    1. Hi Margery and thanks for this – I’m glad you reminded me at the end of this critique that what counts is that I’m painting!
      Much of what you say is accurate, much is also inaccurate but, if the painting doesn’t make certain things plain enough then I suppose whether it’s accurate or not, it could be deemed to have failed. What I liked about this was that it had a spirit and an energy to it which at the moment, feels more important to me than pure accuracy. Hope that this makes sense? As for the year – I can only agree with you, however for different reasons – but yes, its been and continues to be an awful year!

  4. Good to see you still painting, John! Better to keep going than to take a break, if you can. Especially when you paint so well.

    (I’d bet Alvaro would have added a highlight on the bartender’s shoulder!)

    1. Haha, thanks Ray and you’re probably right about the missing Alvaro highlight! Hopefully I’ll be able to keep my painting ticking along, even if it’s only at a low ebb! Good to see you enjoying yours so much!

    1. Thanks Rob – not quit sure quite much I’m getting back into the swing of it to be honest! It almost feels like that my painting, or rather my desire to paint, is slipping away from me at the moment!

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