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Art Chats: watercolor painting budapest nights



Cityscape of budapest at night
Budapest Nights

This weeks blog will be the transcript of my new youtube video of my watercolor painting Budapest Nights. I'll link the video at the bottom if you prefer to watch it instead. I have a stack of drawings and ideas that lay within my sketchbooks and pads of papers. Each lovingly drawn or laid out. Waiting for when I find the medium to bring them to life. This drawing hid quietly for two years waiting for the light to once again skim across its page. I had started inking it at some point but finding it did not suit the mood of the piece I paused and slipped it back between the pages of a coil bound watercolor pad. Having a new confidence in playing with watercolors it was like it jumped out of the pad and fell at my feet and said “It’s time we try.” I held this piece in a precious way in my mind, a slight fear in starting because I didn't want to lose the moment I captured on that quiet sunday night. 


People always ask me why I love Budapest so much because It never fails that when I am there I spend more time in heartache than laughing and smiling. It’s a strange mix of inspiration from the energy in the air to the people that cross my path. The buildings seem to tell a story and the colors muted and faded are laced with surprises that if you pay attention will take your breath away. This moment was one of the reasons why. 


Nights in Budapest are rarely that quiet in center. Finding this street devoid of people so early in the evening was a treat all its own. It felt like the city stopped for that one moment just for me and let me peer into one of those happy moments. The nights take on this rich velvety purple hue. It’s color is so vibrant that it’s like you can feel it wrap around you and pulling you in. As night shifts towards day it inches towards dark blues until around 4am where it slips into a light indigo blanket cradled in the hush of a city hanging on an edge waiting to burst into life. 


As I start painting this I restrain myself from immediately filling in all the dark colors. I reference the pantone number I had written down for my Budapest color pallet. This was my first attempt at finding a way to bring home the colors that my photos never seemed to capture right. I would eventually transition into doing watercolor swatches on site to get a better match. I will show my Séville color palette at the end of this video if you’re interested in seeing it. 


I gave thought to what layers I needed to lay down and in what order. I think this has so far been my biggest take away from my watercolor course. 


The first wash I did with trepidation. After this start there was no turning back. I reminded myself that I could always redraw a copy from the original if I messed it up too badly. 


After the first wash I realized this was not the 100% cotton paper that I've grown used to using and I did not pre stretch it before starting. My sheet buckled horribly as it dried and the washi tape let go under the pressure. 


Slightly wetting the back first to relax the paper I refastened the sheet to my clipboard with stronger tape. If I had any gum tape here at home I would have used that. I have to repeat this step a few times in the painting process.


The second wash I started feeling more comfortable but there were 2 moments when I lost my patience and went straight to a dark color without building it up. I had to quickly remind myself that this was not the look I was going for in this piece. I found this simple reminder to myself was enough to bring me back to my plan and resolved my impatience. 


I also made an attempt at restraining myself from getting lost in the details. Although there is some detailing and a definite structure to this painting I practiced at keeping it loose and free. I have a tendency to over draw everything in my paintings which can be fine if that is the look i want.


I used a similar photo I had taken of that spot at night for reference but try to go back to that place in my mind to see how the colors mingled with each other. 


I am happy that I have been slowly conquering my fear of letting others see me painting so the next time I come across a scene like this I can capture it better from life. 


I am still getting used to approaching painting with so much thought. I see the value in doing that because it really does save me time. Normally a painting like this would linger on because I would go into it with little thought then have to figure out how to get to the place I want to go without really knowing where I want to go. That's not something I am not use to doing. 


I do plan out my oils and acrylics but I generally never gave thought to how my layers would lay. When I think back it’s apparent now that a little more thought about that aspect could have saved me a lot of time. It’s not quite as apparent with the more opaque paints but you can see the importance of the layering with these translucent paints. Each layer peaks through the next leaving its own mark behind. 


Each layer I add I see the paint take on more life. I am still getting used to knowing when a painting is finished in watercolor. In my other painting I simply say it's finished when it feels finished. 


But Really it's from experience of over-working many paintings and being able to spot that moment right before it goes from finished to overworked. 


As my input hrs increase I'm expecting to be able to better pinpoint that moment and step away. 


As I get closer to finishing I slow down and really contemplate where the painting still needs work and where it needs to be left alone. Stepping back a few times I try to judge if I'm getting the depth of the scene right or if I need to bring out more of the darks. I take it slow to try to not overshoot where they need to be. 


With the final strokes I hold my breath and force myself to walk away. I let the painting dry and take a few minutes and decide if it's finished. 


Here is a picture of the finished piece in natural light. It lets you see the texture of the paper so much better. 


And here is my Seville watercolor palette and how I arrange my swatches for each city I go to now for when I'm painting in the studio. 


 Thanks for watching, see you next time. 

Jackie





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Nice to have insight into how you work. I would suggest in the future to tell people the actual brushes and watercolor pencils you use to accomplish the piece. Other artists know, but think about the non artists watching. When I first started teaching at the adult level, I assumed that people knew what brush to use and when. However, most beginners don't know the functions of different brushes. So, I spend at least half a class demonstrating how different brushes work. People don't feel talked down to but rather appreciate it. Plus, it's would be nice to take a second to reference preliminary sketches or photos that lead to the finished piece.

Good job with the video and the…

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