This is a sketch I did onsite a few years ago in Avignon, France. I was quite taken by the tiny streets and alleyways and I found this car parked in a spot that seemed impossible to drive to. Somebody did though, and it made for a perfect subject matter!
The cat was not in the picture, I made that up to give it a little more life. Also, the umbrella on top of the roof was actually folded up.
This sketch was largely responsible for the success of this painting. Without it, I don’t think I would have been able to remember this scene very well. It was over two years ago. I did snap pictures, but that’s just not the same as having this precious ‘note’ of what this corner felt like when I was there! Taking pictures of scenes like this is tricky, they usually come out too dark or too light and a camera can never capture the mood of a place very well!
A sketch like this (it’s less than 6″ long and maybe 3″ wide) can be done quickly, if you have a
small palette and some water on hand. I use an old W&N travel palette, it even has a tiny tray for water and you can put it on top of your sketch pad, painting standing up. Literally anywhere, anytime. A true lifesaver when you just don’t have enough time to do a bigger piece!
I also do this method when I am not sure if a scene is actually worth painting. Doing a little painting like this takes all of 10 minutes and you immediately feel if it’s worth an attempt in a bigger size. The painting process is pretty much ‘alla prima’, meaning in one go. The upper left side is the white of the paper and the umbrella and the yellow building with the windows and some highlights is the first wash. I started the second wash on the upper left side and connected everything with the yellow background wash and the right side, all in one wash. You can actually see that I barely caught the pigment before it started to dry, it left furry edges!
The details like the car, the cat, the streetlamp and shutters are last