Last Saturday saw the July meet up of the Brighton Painting Group. The location was Brighton’s iconic Palace Pier which, apparently, is the UK’s most popular tourist attraction outside of London.
The idea of trying to paint such a well known and recognisable landmark – most likely surrounded by tourists – fare filled me with terror; added to which was a rather dubious weather forecast that included high winds and rain!
To complicate matters even further – there was a particular painting that, since the location was announced, I’d been unable to get out of my mind!
As many of will know, I’m a tremendous fan and admirer of John Yardley. Here’s the front cover of Ron Ranson’s Book on John Yardley:
The cover shows his wonderful painting of Brighton’s ‘other’ pier, the West Pier. This pier now lies derelict, slowly crumbling into the sea, but this in no way takes away from the beautiful directness of this painting, which is featured larger inside the book:
I can’t deny that this composition was in my mind when I settled on my view on Saturday. As much as this was informed by John Yardley’s composition, is was governed even moreso by being sheltered from a vicious south westerly wind, and being a little bit tucked away from the many throngs of people on the top level of Brighton’s promenade.
In an all too rare occurence, I decided to try a quick A5 study. I felt that I needed to practice simplifying the shapes and stripping out the details. I also knew that compositionally, the sky would be a major feature, so I was constantly keeping an eye out on this and trying to memorise it, which was difficult when it kept changing so quickly!
Here’s the little study, which I was pleasantly surprised with:
And here’s how the much larger half sheet painting turned out:
I managed to paint about 90% of this on location before the rain really started and sent me running for cover. The final 10% was finished off at home.
I was really pleased how this plein-air painting turned out, especially considering the context and circumstances that it was painted in.
I was particularly pleased with the simplification of the pier, which is an incredibly complex structure, and the sky, which was a pretty accurate reflection of the day, with bits of blue and rain clouds constantly scudding along.
Despite being rained off, I think this probably counts as one of my most successful on location / plein-air efforts. It’s fair to say that I was so engrossed in painting this that I didn’t really have the time or opportunity to take any decent photos of my location and set up on the beach! I really must try harder next time!