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Struggling With Watercolor

We've All Done It

Several years ago I took a trip to Venice. It turned out to be a very stressful trip, and possibly this is why I struggled with this painting.

I began with a pale drawing, which is something I almost never do. I like to paint without drawing because I weigh shapes against each other....studying which is larger or smaller, etc. But this time I drew the buildings, windows, gondolas, and that is where I went wrong.

I laid in the colors of the buildings and started with colors in the water and even some of the windows.

Struggling with Watercolor

Next shows a detail of the light that I washed out in the canal that I wanted to wash across the buildings and gondolas.

Struggling With Watercolor

Then I strengthened the color in the buildings which ran into the washed out area. I had to re-state the light edge of the foreground building. This happened more than once. But here I went further in the detail of the water and the light on the edges of the gondolas.

Struggling with Watercolor 

I began to struggle with all the windows and balconies in the buildings. I didn’t want them to be detailed and take the focus off the gondolas. One minute they were too detailed, and I washed them out, started over and washed them out again. I then had such a mess that I added Permanent White Gouache to the mix of color to make it more opaque...trying to cover my mistakes. I don’t like to use opaques in transparent watercolor but the area was so large that I knew I could not wash it out successfully. I added other colors to the mix to break up the reds and yellows. I also had to re-state the light in the distance and details in some of the gondolas.

It just seemed that every time I painted something, something else was wrong.

Struggling With Watercolor 

In looking at the photo above, I realized that something was terribly wrong with the drawing. It was the size of the windows. They should be much larger. And the balconies seemed to just get in the way of the focal point. I needed to make some major changes, so it mean that I had to start all over with the colors of the buildings, which mean another opaque wash across the page, but I didn’t want it to get too dark, so I added more Permanent White Gouache. I was getting frustrated by this time. But I persisted in the quest to finish this painting. A week went by before I could touch it again, hoping that a new approach might surface. Nothing. Another week, and then I decided it must get done.

At this time, I added the next wash, and then another wash, and another, until I thought it might work. Then I enlarged the windows, put in one balcony very subtly, and just painted windows through the balconies that were further away. You can still see some of them faintly, but I don’t want to paint over them again! Then I finished the details in the water and gondolas, and here is the finished painful painting!

Struggling With Watercolor 

I named this “The Gondola Garage”. It does create a memory for me, but I would rather not have so many problems during the creation of a work. It will be a long time before I will feel proud of this work. Like childbirth, maybe I will forget the pain along the way.

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