A watercolour departure, and a watercolour diversion

This isn’t at all the post I had planned to share today – but sometimes needs must!

The watercolour departure

A week or so ago I gained a new follower on Instagram and, as I usually try to do, I went to have a look at the feed of my new follower. The person wasn’t a painter, but they did have on their feed a collection of photographs that I thought were quite wonderful.

Although very different to my usual choice of subject, I found them to be incredibly painterly. I exchanged messages with the person, to the effect that I’d love to try to paint like that.

I was excited about painting in a way that I haven’t been for a while and couldn’t stop thinking about how I would achieve a similar result in watercolour to the photographs that I’d seen.

First up, was my choice of paper! Since I first picked up my watercolour brushes again, I’ve used rough paper pretty much without exception. For this departure in style and approach however I felt that smooth paper would work best and I happened to have some smooth Arches paper that I’ve had for years. I seem to remember buying a job lot of various papers on Ebay some time ago and this smooth stuff has been languishing at the back of a cupboard ever since.

I knew that I’d be working wet, so wanted to give myself the best chance of success by stretching the paper. And this is where it all started to go wrong!

I hope you can see this but after being soaked in water, the paper showed a peculiar mottling. I’d previously seen something similar to this when painting on paper that was made of wood pulp rather than cotton, but I was surprised to see this occur with Arches paper. I can only assume that it’s old and that this has affected the sizing on the paper.

I wasn’t overly disappointed and, if anything, it made me think that I had absolutely nothing to lose by having a play around on this imperfect paper.

So, the paper was new and entirely different to what I was used to, but what else?

I usually start each painting by sketching an outline of some sort onto the paper. On this occasion however, there were no pencil lines to work to. I just painted directly from the source images.

What else? well I usually try to start and finish a painting in one sitting (or as close as possible to one sitting). Not this time! I was working on two paintings simultaneously, applying thin wet washes and then having to allow them to dry completely before applying the next.

The results!

Well here’s the rub. I finished two paintings. As they were based directly on someone else’s photographs, the right thing to do in my mind is to seek that person’s approval and permission to share these images.

So far, I’ve yet to receive this! I have contacted the person over the weekend and sent images of my paintings, but at the time of writing this, I’ve yet to receive a response! Hopefully I will get some form of response in due course and I really hope that I’ll be allowed to share these two new paintings – I’m really keen to hear what people think of them!

In the meantime, here’s a little watercolour diversion.

The watercolour diversion

As many of you will know, I’m a tremendous admirer of the work of John Yardley. Back in 2015 I even had the pleasure of being able to express my respect and appreciation to John Yardley in person!

Below are two images of the same book: John Yardley, a personal view. The one on the left is the original hardback original copy. The one on the right, a more recent softcover reprint.

‘So why two copies?’ I quite rightly hear you ask.

Well I already had the hardback edition, so I didn’t actually ‘need’ another copy. Although to be honest, since when has ‘need’ actually dictated any of my purchasing decisions?

No, it wasn’t need at all. What made this second copy so attractive to me was that it was a signed copy… and not only that, it contained a little inscription: ‘To John with best wishes’ – well it’s fair to say that I couldn’t resist it! Okay, it wasn’t written ‘to’ me, but I do love his work… and I have met him, even if only briefly… and my name is John…

In years to come, no-one will know whether this was written to me, or another John. Admittedly, no one will care either but to have a copy that’s personally inscribed to yours truly brings me no end of amusement! Sometimes it’s the little things in life!

Anyway, here are a couple of other John Yardley focused posts:

And lest there be any doubt about my respect and admiration for his work, here’s a link to some of my favourite John Yardley images that I’ve collected together on Pinterest:

Thoughts on A watercolour departure, and a watercolour diversion

13 thoughts on “A watercolour departure, and a watercolour diversion”

  1. Pingback: A watercolour departure

  2. John, I can only assume that the paintings you speak of are what you mentioned to me as a ‘departure’. Not your exact word but you get my meaning. Awaiting your post with baited breath!

    1. Yes David, you’re quite right, and I’ve recently received permission / approval to share them so they’ll feature in next week’s post! (which also takes the pressure off me having to produce anything new too!)

    1. I know what you mean Rob but, unlike my contre-jour offerings, he doesn’t work in quite such start silhouettes with diffused backgrounds. I always think that his paintings are quite vividly coloured – but there’s just so much white of the paper left to sparkle through that always amazes me! Anyway, with winter about to descend, it’s always good to have a reason to don a pair of sunglasses every now and then!

  3. Well John that was a tease. There I was holding my breath in anticipation of the great reveal…and I’ll have to wait! I’m excited to know how you got on with your smooth paper as I have just done exactly the same. For no understandable reason of my own just last week I tried a landscape painting on hot press paper…and just loved it. Both the execution and the effects. It was so different on this paper but I loved some of the effects, especially in the trees. I will try it again. Also there are artists whose work I have admired and I realise part of the effect they get might be from using hot press paper. Can’t think to name any just now though., perhaps Ted Nuttall?
    I love JohnYardley and have his book, unsigned.
    I do however have Joseph Z’s book signed! I lent it to a friend who was on his painting holiday. He signed it in red in ink!
    Happy experimenting then John and I will hold my breath till next week.!

    1. haha, so sorry for the tease Carole! On the plus side, I’m delighted to be able to report that I’d now had permission to share my efforts! Always nice to have next week’s blog post material in the bag! What a coincidence – both of us trying out smooth paper at the same time! I’m still not convinced by it and I found it really unnerving at first. The paint and even the water seemed t behave so differently, mine seemed to really sit on the surface for such a long time! I’m envious of your signed JZ book! If my workshop with Alvaro Castagnet ever comes to fruition, I must remember to ask if he’ll sign my copy of his book!

  4. I was interested in your comments. I met John Yardley some years ago at an exhibition of his in Bristol. He asked if I painted so I said “well I dabble” to which he responded “ we all dabble”. A really nice person and I love his paintings. I have never come anything like close in my own painting.

    1. Hi Michael, from reading about him and my own encounter, this sounds exactly as I’d expect! He seemed so grounded, modest and humble considering his immense talent. There’s so much to marvel at in his paintings. In some ways, I’m surprised that more people don’t try to paint in a similar way, but knowing how incredibly difficult it is to get anywhere near that level of vision and skill – it’s perhaps no surprise at all! Thanks so much for sharing the story of your encounter.

  5. Hi John
    I am looking forward to see these of course
    I always feel it’s a it of a moot point about painting a photo someone else has put on the net.
    It is an area I would like to understand better as even when painting from my own photos I often look to see other folks photos of the same scene as it can be very interesting ,especially if they are from some time back.
    Good to see you enthusiasm back !

    1. Hi Brian and thanks for this. I hope too that I’ll be given ‘permission’ to share these most recent efforts. I think working from other people’s reference material is a grey area and I find that end up treating each situation slightly differently! In this instance, my paintings were entirely based on someone else’s work , from the initial idea right through to what I was seeking to achieve – so it seems only right that I seek the ‘owners’ approval and permission. (I should add that I’ve yet to have someone refuse any such request – so hopefully this won’t be a first for me!)

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

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