Afternoon in El Born

I started working on this image last Spring.  At first, it was just an onsite sketch.  It was for our October trip to Barcelona, and we stayed in the Born district.  This is close to Princessa Avenue, a very touristy street full of sourvenir shops, but here, just a block or so away, there are a variety of local stores and cafes.  Balconies are full of laundry drying and potted plants, and down below people are going about their daily business in the amiable, narrow, shady calles.  I loved the late afternoon light and how it spilled down the streets, full of activity.  Here's the first sketch I did-


And a photo I took just a little farther back down the street-



And that's how it stayed until the Spring rolled around, when I decided to do a quick painting note, on a 1/8 sheet, before I headed out elsewhere.  I just wanted to get the vibe for it.  Sometimes, I see problems or explore composition in these little quick paintings.  This was clearly preliminary to me.  That 45 minutes gave me this-


Many months later, after the summer had passed, and Chien Chung Wei's workshop, I came back to the piece, and thought I might have had enough skill to approach it again.  This was on a 1/4 sheet this time.


All in all, not bad.  I applied some of the scratching techniques I'd learned from Chien, and generally captured the feeling of light and shadow.  But I also thought the sunlit building on the right wasn't really bright enough, as well as the fact that I was missing that narrow, cozy, vertical feeling you can get in the warren of the old town of Barcelona. So, I came back to it once more, with those things in mind.

This was done back in September or October, on a 1/2 sheet.  I spent a bit more time on the sketch, getting it all in order, so the perspective was better and the buildings taller.  I also wanted to better capture the "weight" of the white sheets people drape across their balconies for shade.  They were too "stiff" in the previous one.  As before, I preserved a brighter value on the right to get that pop I was looking for.  I was pleased enough with this one to leave it alone.


So in the end, I did 3 versions, but the truth is that with lmost each step I did, I was really aiming for that "I've nailed it!" feeling.  Sometimes, things take a few iterations, but I rarely head in thinking... "This is a draft, and I'll do the good one later."  I almost always start off thinking it's going to be a masterpiece.  Confidence or delusion?  Hahahah!  Who knows? But it helps keep the paint flowing!