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Night scenes

We spend the bulk of our time in cities., and so they occupy a significant part of our visual imagery. The engineer in me is fascinated by the very idea of impressionist rendition of "city scapes". One might find that rural landscapes are natural subjects for impressionist paintings because of the sheer volume of objects to reproduce (the strands of grass, or the branches of a tree), the symphony of shapes and colours, and the lack of (first order) geometric regularity of shapes. But how about city landscapes, with their regularly shaped--if ornamented--buildings, streets, moving objects (cars), etc.The trick, of course, is to not get caught up in the details, but to focus on the light and the motion. This is one area where my admiration for real painters is limitless: being able to convey the mood of a location or time of day, with very little detail. Montréal not being a very pittoresque city, most of the paintings here are reproductions. Two of the reproductions here are from a Chinese painter called Kwan Jeu Pang

Night rainy scene - take one

Here is the original from a Chinese painter. (Kwan Jeu Pang). I went with a dark background and then tried to lift color out with a wet brush. But then, didn't have enough contrast, so I added gouache, to a an inconclusive effect; all manuals (and my own experience :-)) say so, but I keep trying anyway :-)


Monumental city

Check the original at this page. I found this watercolour (the original) incredibly beautiful. 

I always find an incredible boldness or audacity (audace) in many of the great watercolours, because of the implausibility of many of the individual elements of the painting, but then the overall result is very plausible and very harmonious.


Most of what I am saying is probably banalities from watercolour 101, but I am enjoying discovering it through trial and error :-) 


Pont au Change

Another incredible scene--as far as I am concerned. It is a reproduction of a watercolour by Michael Reardon of the Pont au Change, in Paris. The original faithfully reproduces a common hazy feeling you have in European cities with a body of water, at times of low sun (sunrise or sunset) and intense humidity--this one feels more summery.

Michael Reardon seems to use this colour scheme to great effet for many cityscapes. While this is a pale imitation, I am not too unhappy with the result.

Sainte Catherine

My attempt at original composition :-). From a picture taken while I was driving on Sainte Catherine street, going east not far from Metcalfe street. Sainte Catherine is not particularly interesting, architecture-wise (let us face it, few Montreal streets are), and especially not the segment where I was. But I was going for the light effects. I went for a "process" I watched in one of the videos where the painter starts by laying a colourful background using different colour hues using "wet over wet", and then to paint the features of the painting over that. In this case, you see that background in the windows, which convey the complex light reflexions you are likely to have in a night city scene. The other aspect of the "exercise" was light reflections on metallic objects (cars), and the usual challenges of doing that in watercolour (light over dark) 


The Tron - Glascow

Reproduction of a painting by the same name by Iain Stewart.

The original is incredible. You can check his website here. This is a poor rendition of the original.

When you do reproductions, in general, it is always a challenge. I guess a painting is a like a building, with a complex architecture. One way to reproduce a painting is to copy it pixel by pixel, using the exact same colour as the original. Of course, that is called photography. The other way is the same way you would "reproduce" a building. You first have to "guess" or "reverse engineer" that construction process, and then execute the process by making sure to execute the individual steps as faithfully as possible. If you follow a video tutorial, the construction process is provided by the artist. They usually do their best to justify the process, but that is a big part of the creative process. 

The planning phase is nowhere more important than with watercolour, because of the transparency of the colours. Hence the challenge of reproducing watercolours without user manual. Experienced painters will use their own process to a similar effect--or not. Amateurs like myself may get the "main phases" of the process, but add many details in an unplanned, ad-hoc fashion, after the fact


Chinatown - take one

From a painting by Kwan Yeuk Pang, the same guy who did the first painting I plagiarized at the top of this page. I started with some greyish colour hues in the background, and then tried to add (darken) or remove colour, for the brighter spots. In the original, the central part of the painting is painted into a very bright yellow blot. It didn't seem very plausible, but this result is fairly lame with little life or relief


China town - take two

The same painting as above, but this time using different backgrounds for different parts of the watercolour (duh!). Better feel than the first, but less faithful in other (minor) aspects.


Same painting - take two

In this case, I started with white background, adding colour as needed. More contrast, and a better effect.

Square in Montpellier, France

From a picture taken in a square in Montpellier, around noon, on July 15th. It is a saturated photo with high contrast between sunlit and shaded areas. That is generally a challenge for watercolour painting, especially for sun-bleached "ambiances" you are likely to find in mediterranean scenes, including southern France and Tunisia. Not too happy with the result which does not convey the mood of the scene.

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