Trattoria Centro Rampini, mantua – Two Watercolours, two years apart.

The image below is one that I painted back in 2020. Looking back at the post now, I see that it was written during Covid, just as Italy had ordered the closure of all its cafes, bars and social spaces. It seems hard to imagine now but, just looking back at that post does bring some memories flooding back. Not least in these memories is the seeming inconsequence and irrelevance of splashing some paint about during the middle of a global pandemic!

This irrelevance is something that I encounter quite often but perhaps the fact that I continue to paint and post is justification enough – although even as I type this it feels pretty feeble!

I can’t remember exactly when, but I decided to try my hand at this scene again. There was nothing more to it that the feeling that I liked the scene and felt that I might be able to do a better version of it. I was also going through one of my all too frequent dilemmas about what to paint next!

I had a piece of paper all stretched up and ready to go. If I recall correctly, I got about 80 or 90% towards finishing the painting before having a bit of a hissy fit over it. I can’t even remember what exactly it was that frustrated me so, but I totally lost the plot and in a fit of pique, drenched the paper and using a soft brush but in a less than soft manner, tried to lift as much of the paint off the paper as possible.

I then left the painting, if that’s what it could be called! to dry. Here’s a picture of how it looked at this point in time:

This painting sat like this for months. I didn’t really know what to do with it. I even quite liked some of the washed-out qualities of this failure. I equally didn’t want to abandon it. I don’t know why as I’ve abandoned so many paintings, but somehow I’d decided to hang onto this one.

As I was once again struggling for inspiration, I was leafing through some old paintings and came across this painting. It was the first time I’d looked at it for months. I can’t say that I felt wholly inspired to tackle it again as I fear this would be misleading! I think more on my mind was that it would be good to have the board back again to stretch another piece of paper out for another painting!

The good thing about this sensibility was a distinct lack of preciousness. The painting was already a failure, so I had nothing to lose with whatever I did to it. I set about painting this view again, preserving some of the original elements, such as the table legs catching the light and the foreground area, neither of which saw another drop of paint – while trying to go dark and bold elsewhere:

Trattoria Centro Rampini, Mantua

During this time, I did look at the reference photo on occasion, but never at the previous painting.

Which do you prefer?

It was only after I’d finished painting it that I looked back at this earlier version, more out of curiosity than anything else. As I finished painting this new version, I felt quite pleased with how it looked but I was then surprised when I saw it alongside the earlier version. Here are the two side by side for ease of comparison.

I do think that they both have merit. I particularly like the sharp contrast of the white of the tablecloth on the 2020 version, but I think I prefer the overall warmer tones and the bolder use of darks in the 2022 version.

I’d love to hear what others think though. Which do you prefer? (and remember, there’s no right or wrong here, just differences!)

Thoughts on Trattoria Centro Rampini, mantua – Two Watercolours, two years apart.

8 thoughts on “Trattoria Centro Rampini, mantua – Two Watercolours, two years apart.”

  1. Hey John,
    I prefer the top painting. I like how you handled the colors above the archway. But I also like the dark areas under the tables on the lower painting. Adds a mysterious impression.

    1. Hi Larry and many thanks for this and apologies for not replying sooner! It was funny because I decided at the last minute to mount and frame the second (darker) version for an exhibition I had a couple of weeks ago and it sold! Naturally I was chuffed to bits but it was a total surprise!

    1. Haha, I don’t think you’re just being contrary Rukshana! I also like the first version for similar reasons and was surprised how different they both looked when I compared them! Maybe I’ll come back to this again in another couple of years and see what happens next time!

  2. The new one seems to me to be much easier to interpret; the light and dark give it real depth and there are no distractions from the central subject. I think the table legs have, serendipitously, played a big part in this. What intrigues me, though, is how these blokes can have got through quite so many bottles and are still sitting relatively upright!

    1. Hi Rob and thanks so much for this! In my mind, the people in this painting work there. I can’t quite decide whether this is the moment before anyone’s arrived, (but then why so many bottles), or after everyone’s left (but then why are the tablecloths so neat and tidy!) Afraid it’s yet another one of my paintings that raises more questions that it provides answers!

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

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