One of the paintings in my recent Exhibition in Llangollen Museum that I could have sold many times over was this little watercolour of rainy Llangollen. It didn’t seem to matter which part of the United Kingdom you lived in, this was the one you wanted. This was unexpected, to say the least, so no prints and no cards, and I don’t do repeat paintings. I don’t greatly care for commissions either as I find it difficult to create a painting when other people’s expectations are riding on it.
However, I did agree to attempt my local bridge “in the same style”. I thought “nice little watercolour – I know the bridge very well – I only have to paint it in blue – shouldn’t take long!” Wrong, wrong, wrong! After six attempts I was desperate. Nothing worked. Painting the bridge in blue wasn’t difficult. The problem was that each effort lay on the page – dead; lifeless and without vitality; nothing I would put my name to. Goodness knows I’ve seem the bridge in the rain countless times – I’ve even seen it in the dark!
Inspiration! Moonshine on the water! What do you think? I love it.
Isn’t it wonderful how a few squiggles of pastel can say so much! I have been working on this picture as a demonstration for my class, so the whole thing has taken, in total, about an hour and half to paint.
Most of the trees have been indicated by sideways strokes of the pastel with pinks and yellows varying the summery greens. Scribbled dark green, blues, purples and maroons form the right-hand trees with open fencing allowing light to dapple the path.
The slowly moving, muddy water of the canal reflects the trees darkly, depicted by vertical strokes of the sides of the pastels. Late evening sun casts long shadows, warming the trees and unusually, catching the inside of the arch, a natural focus of the scene. Two little boats snuggle into the bank, but even the brightly coloured one cannot take precedence of that arch.
Now I’m working on the figures. The light is coming from the left and slightly behind the figures. His shirt is a little tidier and his right shoulder more visible. She now has two legs to stand on ( but no feet) and her cardigan somewhat reduced near his right shoulder. A suggestion of modelling on the dress is an improvement, and her hair is more like that of the girl I know. I have made a start on the faces, still very much at the early stage, his face now turned to look at the viewer.
There is still much to do here before I start to attend to details – his legs are wrong, she needs feet, the pillar should be longer and the edge of the terrace sticks out further behind the pillar. All these things will be sorted.
I’ve also been working on the big vase in the foreground and am very pleased with progress! It such a wonderful colour (it’s more turquoise in the painting), I’ve been aching to paint it. The shape is intricate so this is only the beginning but the colours, tones and textures around it make a perfect setting, contrasting rough stonework with smooth ceramic, dark blues and greens and lighter creamy browns.
The reflections of the three central boats made for an interesting hour or two. The colours and tones are muted but the water is so still that it is almost a mirror reflection. In fact, if I turn it upside down …
… they look very much the same as the real boats!
I have worked at the hulls of each one. They may be painted black but age, reflected and natural light, introduce a variety of grey tones which create the shape of all those curves and angles. Darkening the background behind the first boat has allowed me to bring out the shiny surface of the long cabin.
The long thin format of the painting is playing games with my usual plan of attack. Uncertainty is uncomfortable and I haven’t worked out what is so strange about the “letterbox”. I trust that I will come up with a riposte soon.