A new city scene and a watercolour washout

First up this week is a new city scene watercolour painting from my home town of Brighton! Considering how long I’ve lived in Brighton, which on and off is probably around 25 or 26 years out of the past 38 years, it’s inspired very few of my paintings.

I think this could be to do with a certain sense of over-familiarity. I do love the city but having lived here for so long, there’s probably a great deal that I take for granted. I’m also rarely wandering the streets in a carefree way just soaking up the atmosphere and sights, as I might when on holiday. I’m usually dashing from a to b on some errand or rushing to take my daughter somewhere or collect her from somewhere.

This was the case when I photographed the inspiration for this painting. I was rushing to get my daughter to an optician’s appointment but the sun was still rising casting this deliciously pure and luminous light.

Winter light, London Road, Brighton

A watercolour washout

I’m sharing this next painting as one of those examples when things don’t quite go to plan! I was working from a reference photo and, in my mind’s eye, I felt I had a pretty clear sense of what I needed to do and what this painting might look like. I thought that my first wash worked out fine, but then, in characteristically impatient fashion, I started the next stage before the first had dried off.

From this point on, things began to spiral a little. A lot of my tones and my colour mixes seemed off, so as I applied something to one area, I felt that I then had to go back across all the other areas. As I got more frustrated, I decided just to skip ahead and go straight for one of the darkest passages, a dry stone wall running from the bottom left-hand corner.

When I was about 80% of my way through the painting, I was utterly exasperated! I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing, and the results reflected as much! There have been times when I’ve persevered at this stage, and on some occasions, have been able to turn things around. This time, however, I just didn’t see the point. I felt I’d far rather put it behind me and move on to something else.

A watercolour washout

I took one of my biggest brushes, soaked it repeatedly in water and washed it across the entire painting, removing the majority of the pigment that I’d applied. It felt quite cathartic in many ways. Ironically, it also gave the painting a colour and tonal unity that I’d been struggling to achieve!

This is still taped up on a board, and when the mood is on me I think I might revisit this – it’s not as if I have anything to lose, and who knows, I might surprise myself.

Off to the Mall Galleries

I’m very excited to be heading to London this weekend to deliver my painting for this year’s Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour exhibition at the Mall Galleries. The exhibition opens to the public on Thursday 30th March and runs until the 8th of April. I remain beyond excited!

Thoughts on A new city scene and a watercolour washout

1 thought on “A new city scene and a watercolour washout”

  1. Erasing your painting was cathartic as you said. I tend to attack mine! The other day my watercolor was dreadful, in part because of bad paper not being able to do what I needed. So I took my mixed paint on the palette and smeared it around, turning everything a shade or two darker. Night? So I put in a moon and some watery moon reflections, and produced the ugliest nocturne – but am now inspired to paint a “nice” nocturne! Your work is always so lovely, so it is nice to know you mess up, too!! (As do we all – we are human.)

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

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