This Portsmouth, New Hampshire painting was a bit of a turning point for me when I did it. I’d been banging my head against a brick wall for a few months and not getting anywhere. Many of my watercolor paintings weren’t working out and I just couldn’t work out why! I’d have all these great plans, lots of things went right but the end result was just disappointing. I’d pore over the results and try to work out what went wrong but I just couldn’t work it out. I’d try multiple versions with different approaches and still no joy.
Until this one!
Now you may think that this isn’t much to write home about. And, frankly, looking at this a couple of years later I agree with you. But at the time I was over the moon. I think I’ve moved on a bit from here – this Marlborough painting for instance or this Arlington Str church painting.
So What Made the Difference?
So what was it that made the difference? That’s the million dollar question. I’d been reading Edgar Payne’s book on composition and he mentions breaking down each scene into a few big shapes. I thought ‘why not give it a try’ so I took this scene and tried my best. I decided to give each shape a ‘mother’ value so the arrangement would be visually appealing and just vary the value slightly within each shape. There was also a fair amount of detail in this which I treated as a separate shape of its own.
And it Worked! Portsmouth New Hampshire Painting Success!
And you could knock me down with a feather it worked! A lot of this was that trying to keep everything harmonious within it’s own shape made me simplify things to a much greater degree than I’d been used to. And this combination of retaining the big shapes with some variation within them for interest absolutely did the trick.
I’ve been using this approach ever since. And it’s worked well. I don’t rigidly stick to it but it’s a great starting point especially for very complicated street scenes.