Watercolour advice: “paint something you’ve enjoyed painting before”

The time I’m able to dedicate to painting is currently coming under a lot of pressure!

The upshot of this a slight dip in my confidence as I gradually spend less and less time with a brush in my hand. This in turn can lead to a lack of motivation and choosing a subject and just plain old getting started can become a challenge. As I struggled to decide what to sketch out, and what I felt confident about trying to paint, my partner, responding to my exasperation, chimed in with:

“Just paint something you’ve enjoyed painting before!”

Sage advice from my partner

Well, that was all in took and, within minutes, I’d decided to revisit a view of Barcelona that I painted some time ago.

This painting was a quarter sheet and I recall that I enjoyed painting it and that I was really pleased with it at the time. It’s strange that when I went back to look at this again, I was a tad underwhelmed with it! I didn’t spend long looking at it but immediately felt that there were some things I could improve on.

Barcelona street corner

The main difference at the outset was that I decided to work larger as I had a half sheet all stretched out and ready to go. The other changes I looked at were changes to the composition, some of which made it closer to the original source image. Here’s how I got on:

Probably the main compositional difference is the supremely tall tree! I remember that I chose to leave this out of when I did the first painting as I wasn’t convinced that I could paint it effectively.

I’m afraid that this latest effort has only vindicated my earlier decision! While I think it works compositionally, I’m not particularly enamoured with how I painted this.

Fortunately, I don’t think that this is is the main focal point and I think that the figures do draw the eye and are much more accomplished than on my first painting. I also tried to join shapes together more effectively, which you can see with the cars here. I think that the orange car, a taxi, is probably too small but I like that it adds a little spot of colour.

Here are the two side by side:

Considering how doubtful I was about starting any painting at all, I was quite pleased that I managed to turn this around – and I even quite enjoyed painting it!

So, if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, perhaps trying to draw or paint something that you know you’ve enjoyed painting before might help you too!

Thoughts on Watercolour advice: “paint something you’ve enjoyed painting before”

18 thoughts on “Watercolour advice: “paint something you’ve enjoyed painting before””

  1. Your newer version is a huge improvement on the first John. I love how the colours are more vibrant – they bring the painting alive. The figures are painted much better too and draw the eye into the painting. I think the large tree is fine as it is – it’s not the focal point of the painting and there’s just enough information there to say it’s a tree. A job well done!

    1. Thanks so much for this Evelyn, I’m so pleased that you like this latest version (I do too for all the reasons that you’ve remarked on!) It’s strange in a way because I distinctly remember being quite pleased with myself when I did the first version.

        1. Thanks so much for this Evelyn and yes, I really hope that this is the case (even if it does often feel a bit like it’s a constant process of two steps forwards and one step backwards!)

  2. This is beautiful, John. Both versions are good, but I like your new one better. More color and more vibrant shapes seem to add increased depth to the scene. I love the large tree, the increased detail on the people, and that orange taxi definitely adds some punch to the painting.

    I am glad you made the effort and took the time. Don’t you hate it when our work and other stuff gets in the way of our creative hobbies?

    Hang in there, and wishing you all the best from Utah, USA.

    1. Hi Tim and thanks so much for this, so pleased you like this most recent one! I’m totally with you too on the frustrations of ‘all the other stuff’ getting in the way of what we’d rather be doing! (but I’m also realistic enough to know that bills need paying and mouths need feeding and painting watercolours just isn’t going to cut it!) Hope you’re finding some to time to get out and about with your camera? All the very best Tim!

      1. The same for you John! I really love my job, and well I do really well financially. Photography would never give me a good living, but like you I really love using that creative, visual side of my brain. I took a really cool trip through New Mexico and Arizona last month, and am still working on the blog posts and photos. I took about 350 photos!

        It was so nice after the year of COVID-19 seclusion to be traveling and out again. Happy painting and try to find time to enjoy your hobby. You are so skilled!

        1. Thanks so much for your kind words Tim and I’m so pleased you’ve been able to get out and about to do some travelling, see some new things and be inspired! I know this is something that I miss increasingly as time goes on! I suppose what we’re all after is some kind of balance – hopefully we’ll both find a bit more of it in the months ahead!

  3. Great advice from your wife, John and a great result. Great figures and I think what I like the most is they have legs! Tim Wilmot begone!

    1. Thanks so much for this David. I’m fortunate that my partner is really supportive of me painting and also much more creatively talented than I am so we’re often able to help each other through our creative droughts! Glad you like the legs on the figures (though I’m afraid you’ll rarely ever see feet on the end of them!)

  4. John,
    You continue to inspire. Thank you for sharing all your „ups“ and especially all the „downs“…so many of us share and Have in common as we (I) attempt to quell self-doubts. And….all that other stuff! Your comments
    I consider similar to a good friend who gives support
    By (basically) saying….“quit whinging, tighten your
    Braces, Just. Keep. Going. Thank you.

    1. Haha, thanks so much for this Raye, it means a lot! reading your comments makes me realise that half the time, my blog post is just me articulating my internal voice – basically, me haranguing myself to stop procrastinating and to just get on and paint! Thank you!

  5. I like the composition of the first (and feeling of distance) and the more vibrant colors of the second. Time for Barcelona III. I know many artists eschew the use of specialty paint brushes but I have a few from Rosemary that have served me very well when doing foliage. My city has plenty of palm trees so a flat brush is all I need but when it comes to other types of trees and bushes, I turn to my Rosemarys to help me out.

    Meanwhile, I haven’t touched a brush since the first Covid lock down almost 15 months ago. Basically since they canceled the class I used to go to. Why? Because I have a hard time justifying spending several hours painting when there is so much to do around the house. That’s why I went to class in the first place. To get out of the house and have no choice, thus no guilt. Currently I am filling in a trench with dirt and then replacing bricks in my patio. I had a gas leak and they had to replace the line. 45 feet. Cash or checks, no credit cards. So while I hired someone to dig the ditch I have no more money to pay to have it filled in. So I plod on a bit each day. And it has to get done. The refrigerator I ordered back in SEPTEMBER has been delayed again, this time until August 3rd, but it could come earlier so I have to be prepared.

    That hasn’t stopped me from buying supplies. I’ve bought the large size folio from Expeditionary art and the newest Greenleaf and Blueberry palette. But, as I look around, I need to start downsizing. After five years I have determined what I like and use and what I don’t and I need to start getting rid of watercolor things that I don’t use and likely never will. No, I am keeping my Frazier-Price palettes. Both of them. But some of my Windsor and Newton I just don’t use. A few that I did when I started out I don’t touch any more. I might keep one Windsor and Newton and one Schmincke simply to store the half pans I bought, but many of the others I just don’t use and they are just taking up space cluttering the room. I have an easel I don’t use. I have two French half easels and I use neither of them. One is a Julian and one is a Mabef. I have a nice Joe Miller one for studio work I will keep and when I go out, I use a tripod and Guerilla flex easel. So I really don’t need the Julian or the Mabef, they’re just too heavy to tote. Likewise my Guerilla Campaign box. It’s too big and too heavy to carry around and I question if it would be stable on my tripod as well.

    I do have several subjects that I have already painted once, twice and even three times. I suppose I will revisit them when I finally get back to painting. In the mean time I still have about 25 feet of trench to fill back in and then replace the bricks. If Kitchenaid delays my refrigerator one more time I am going to call them and demand a free mixer as “interest” on the “loan” I have given them for an entire year; $2,000 and no refrigerator. (Oh, but they have $10,000 refrigerators in stock.)

    1. Wow, Mary – with all that going on, no wonder you painting’s rather fallen off your radar! Shame I don’t live closer as I’d love to come and rummage through the watercolour yard sale that it sounds like you’re building up to! My purchases have pretty much dwindled to only the odd thing here and there now. I’ve know that I’ve already got more than I need, and am pretty comfortable with the range of brushes, palettes and easels that I have. (Though this still doesn’t stop me looking!) Good luck with all of your non painting endeavours, but hope that you’ll be able to pick up your brushes again soon!

  6. I like the new one a lot more than the old one, John. Be careful, though; you’ve almost got detail in their faces!
    I’ve hit a brick wall lately, too. I’m afraid my answer is to look for a new painting challenge rather than go back to something I’ve done before but I imagine it’s a matter of horses for courses. You seem to have moved on considerably in this version and that must surely be very encouraging.

    1. Thanks Rob – I think it’s painting on a larger scale! I’m getting perilously close to needing to include facial details! I certainly won’t be painting on a full sheet anytime soon, that’s for sure! Glad that you prefer the new, but sorry to hear you’ve hit your own brick wall! I’ve grown to accept these hurdles as all part and parcel of creative endeavour. We’re all bound to have peaks and troughs of confidence, enthusiasm and motivation so we all have to figure out ways of working through our fallow patches! Good luck with finding your next new subject!

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