Improving an old watercolour painting

It's very easy to go back and improve on your old watercolour paintings. In this blog post I want to talk you through one that I wasn't entirely happy with.

Setting the scene

A couple of years ago I visited Nerja in Southern Spain. It's a beautiful little village with an olde-worlde feel to it, and is just an hour's drive away from Malaga.

I took this photograph of the Balcon de Europa, the heart of Nerja, with a view to painting it when I got home.

Choosing the composition and colours

We all know how the camera lies to us - the colours were much brighter in real life, and the whole scene had a blue tint to it that I really wanted to capture. It also felt very romantic to be there in the setting sun, so I tweaked the people to reflect the atmosphere.

So here was my painting, mounted (I'm sure you'll agree, they always look best with a mount):

Well I pondered, and I studied, and a year later I decided that I really wasn't happy with it. The painting lacked depth and definition.

What to do?

I began by adding some pen to give more definition. I added some outlines, being careful to have some lost and found edges. If I had simply outlined the whole thing then it would begin to look like a colouring in exercise, and the painting would lose its charm. Then I added some hatching to add depth to the darker areas.

After adding the pen, I felt that there was too much black ink and not enough colour, so I decided that I really needed to add more watercolour to enhance the depth. I also felt that the blues were not toning in very well together, so using my W&N artists watercolour paints, I added cerulean blue to all of the shadows in the building. I made sure that I had enough pigment and water on the brush to cover all the areas that I wanted to go over, to avoid hard edges. I needed to make sure that I didn't leave any puddles of paint or water, as this would surely have left those dreaded unwanted backruns and cauliflowers. Then I strengthened the blues in the shadows and foreground to add depth.

Next I added burnt sienna and crimson to the floor, and strengthened the sea, hills and sunset slightly, dampening the sunset before I added colour to keep it soft, and remembering to wait until the neighbouring pigment had dried to avoid bleeding.

At this point I was feeling relatively happy with it, so put it back into its mount.

Is it finished? I think so....

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