Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Atmospheric Havana

Watercolour on Fabriano Artistico - 14 inches x 21 inches

I felt excitement coursing through my veins as soon as I stepped foot into Havana. I have no doubt that the cubans must be concerned about the the state of their buildings and dwellings, as so many are falling to pieces both inside and out. Selfishly, as an artist, the colours, peeling plaster, decorative designs and elegant proportions are a dream .... not to mention the old, American cars.

Building up the painting is a most enjoyable, yet challenging process. I tend to build up a healthy mix of mid tone colours covering the cool and warm groups. It is important to drop in a darker shadow or two so that you can get a sense of depth and perspective.  I try not to worry about achieving perfect edges and lines. You are creating an impression of something. Buildings can be particularly tricky as we try our best to keep doors, windows and walls tidy. The first few layers of a watercolour tend to be more transparent and lighter anyway, so dare yourself to go over that edge.  The darker layers or shapes, which are selectively added towards the end of the process, can define areas that appear too ‘wishy washy’.

Some tips: If you do have a complex scene to paint, try to keep the line work light and loose to allow for tweaking and movement. For me, the car was the most challenging part of the illustration. Identify as many simple shapes as possible that make up the whole. Really look at those shapes (and this applies to the whole drawing): is it long and elegant, squat, square, flat, and does the shape on the left line up with the shape above or below??? Is the distance between object ‘x’ really that far or close to object ‘y’? Use your ruler to check the angles of the windows, rooftops and balconies. Take your time. Before painting soften some of your lines.

Load a big brush with a watery wash of quinacridone gold or new gamboge and paint a loose layer over most of your picture. Even at this stage try to describe the space and the objects. It is very good practice. Don’t be neat and tidy - paint over those edges. (C) Once this has dried apply a second layer of permanent rose and a little windsor violet ... then proceed to build up the darker tones, both warm and cool. 

I have not specified which colours were painted in what order as it is instinctive. Trust your own colour choices and combinations. I sometimes use a colour to link areas together e.g. a raw sienna can be added to a pinker area of wall and also to beige area next to it to create a little harmony.I have used cobalt green, french ultramarine, permanent rose, raw umber, gamboge, cadmium red and so on. Instead of going for one shadow colour for the windows, try to mix two darker colours together i.e. french ultramarine and raw umber. Drop in some cadmium red for interest and for fun. Try to see each shape as an individual painting. Try to enjoy it and not see it as a trial.