Narrow Streets and Alleyways

The steepness of the medieval alley, t he textures in the stone, and the picturesque qualities of the windows were visually appealing by themselves in this southern mediterranean back street. but what made the scene even more appealing for me were the signs of human habitation: the washing hanging across the street, and - anchoring the entire scene firmly in the twentieth century - a modern road sign prohibiting vehicles from entering this residential haven of peace and tranquillity.

This painting was made in the studio, created from references gathered on site. As such, it is possibly a little less accurate, but a lot more finished than it would have been if I had painted it on the spot.

The main technique used in this picture was that of washing and blotting. It is a

technique that I will usually only use in the studio as it depends very largely on having a fairly constant temperature to allow you to measure or judge the rate at which the wet paint will dry. The textures in the brickwork and the walls were created by washing a wild and wet undercoat of raw sienna (ideal for the Italian stone) and. using a large brush, as this is beginning to dry, dropping 011 some darker colours - usually burnt umber, burnt sienna and ultramarine — and allowing these paints to bleed together. As they begin to drv. hard lines or watermarks will begin to

form. Some of these I blot out using .1 piece of scrunched up kitchen paper, and others I leave to dry by themselves. When these patches have dried I select a few of them and, using a small brush and a mixture of burnt umber and a touch of ultramarine, paint around the watermarks (or light.

blotted shapes), creating areas that are suggestive of flaking plaster or uneven stonework. 1 will leave some of these to dry with a hard edge, and I will drop some water onto others to create a bleed, or maybe blot the edge. 1 work 011 in this way until I am satisfied that the area I am painting is textured enough.

An unusual aspect of observation came into play in this composition. Because the street was so steep, I found myself looking up directly underneath the eaves and arches, gaining a fuller view than usual. These areas also needed a substantial amount of shading and for this I used burnt umber, raw sienna and cobalt blue. Having applied the paint with a medium brush I pulled it downwards along the wall, adding clear water to dilute the tone, and allowing it to bleed freely and to dry with a little blotting where required.

The final aspect of this composition involved putting in the figure walking towards the arch, reminding us of the purpose of the buildings, and giving scale and focus to the composition. This is something that I look at more closely in the final chapter of the book.


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Freehand Sketching An Introduction

Freehand Sketching An Introduction

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