Brighton Painting Group meet up, February 2023, Hove Lawns

I apologise in advance for the brevity of some sections of this post and promise to explain at a later date! Right now however, I have to rush a little to get this written and posted!

Saturday saw the February meeting of the Brighton Painting Group. The venue was the seafront on Hove lawns – absolutely perfect for me in many ways as it’s less than 10 minutes walk for where I live. A complete nightmare in other ways because I find it such a difficult vista for inspiration. On this occasion, this was compounded by flat grey light. With not a shadow to be seen, I was struggling for inspiration from the get go!

In the end, I decided to paint the cafe on the seafront. I was attracted to this because of the contrast between the roof of the cafe and its shape set against the darker buildings in the background. I also thought that the cafe would have a steady stream of people popping up to it so I’d get some figures in there too, and thought that I might be able to make something of the pop of red awnings.

Here’s how my effort was looked as it neared completion:

Meeting Place II – Hove Lawns, Brighton

There’s no doubting that I found the location and weather a real challenge, but I was pleased that I persevered and ended up with a painting, even though it’s not what I might call one of my most successful!

Photograph of watercolour artist John Haywood painting plein air on Brighton seafront
Paint splasher in action

Painting still in progress!

Last week I shared this painting and my dilemma about how best to treat the final piece of this painting, a large tree in the foreground.

I received some really kind and helpful suggestions which I greatly appreciated. I realised that it might also have been helpful had I shared my reference photo, so you may be able to get a better sense of the challenge I’m trying to rise to!

And for ease of comparison, here are the two side by side:

It’s a long time since I shared a reference photo with my work as increasingly, I found that the reference photos became a distraction. The automatic tendency is to compare the painting with the source image, rather than see the painting in it’s own right and merits. The source photos are usually a starting point for me and I’m not one that seeks any form of photorealism. I’m sharing on this occasion so that you can see the composition and the look and textures of the tree that I’m trying to tackle.

I had hoped to share with you the finished painting this week but I’m afraid time has run away with me a little. Instead, in the hope it might whet the appetite for next week (when I’m sure to have finished it!) here’s a few quick studies that I’ve done to help me decide what might be the best approach for me to take.

Studies one and two – for these, my intention was to freely splash some paint on using a mop brush with a view to adding additional textures and branches when they were dry. From the moment I did these, I didn’t think that this was an approach that wanted to pursue for this particular endeavour!

Study 3 – was done mainly with a flat brush using very light dry brush strokes to build up the mass of the trees. I varied the color as I went, finally adding in the branches. At the very end, I did apply a little water spray to the perimeter of the outer branches to to soften them a little.

Study 4 – was done by first applying a very pale wash to define the mass of the trees, on top of which I then applied the dry brush strokes before finishing with the more substantial branches.

Of these different approaches, I’m inclined to follow ‘study 3’ as I think it best captures the feeling of the trees that are in the photograph. As ever, I’d welcome anyone thoughts on this before I commit to it! (And many thanks for all the thoughts and advice and suggestions so far – it’s been really helpful!)

Thoughts on Brighton Painting Group meet up, February 2023, Hove Lawns

6 thoughts on “Brighton Painting Group meet up, February 2023, Hove Lawns”

  1. I like your plein air.

    I actually don’t like either of the studies. I’d like to see it taller, narrower with fewer branches and fewer leaves. Something a bit more stark. You can always add more, but you can’t take anything away.

    1. Thanks Mary, glad you like the plein air! Sorry you don’t like any of the studies – I was less concerned with getting an exact capture of the trees in the photo with this, more of an approach to take. I’ve finished this painting now so will share it in my next post and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you like it!

  2. Hi John
    Interesting post Hove worked well, not an easy location.
    I think if it were my watercolour I would advance the season to late spring and get some substance even a touch of green in to the first tree to give it body, just a thought
    BTW have just bought and now used Daniel Smith watercolour sticks, rather good and interesting to use.

    1. Hi Brian and thanks for this! I much confess that the idea of bringing the season along a little so I can add some leaves is seriously tempting! There’s also something about the challenge of of trying to capture the leafless trees that appeals to me too. Thanks for sending through the painting you’ve done using the Daniel Smith watercolour sticks – the white worked brilliantly on the water (and I can see why that scene sells well!) It’s not at all like me to get all purist, but I still feel I should be trying to achieve the same with a brush, but maybe I’ll order one to have a play around with! Thanks so much Brian

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