It’s complicated

On holiday in Madeira, we visited the Monte Palace Tropical Garden way up the mountain. The gardens looked like they had been extensively rescued and refurbished in the ’60s and ’70s, with some rather (to our eyes) brutalist sculpture and landscaping, but with an Oriental bent. Everywhere had a beautiful view to unfold, but trying to squeeze one of those views onto paper in an hour proved a massive challenge. I chose to paint a water feature based on the idea of the Madeiran irrigation levadas, the attraction also being that there was an unoccupied seat conveniently situated at the top of the steps, looking down.

I started with a sketch in fineliner, which looked fairly promising. About halfway through adding paint, the full sun disappeared as cloud moved over. How I hate it when that happens! The changing conditions certainly presented a challenge, as did all the vegetation, perspective, shadows, etc, etc. It wasn’t long before I realised that I’d been rather too ambitious in my scope. Have I learned my lesson? Probably not…

Madeira botanical gardens watercolour


18 thoughts on “It’s complicated

  1. Well, it certainly looks like you made the most of it! Lots of detail here. I get overwhelmed by that sort of thing, unless i know i have a few days or so to work on it! No way i could’ve made such a scene look complete under an hour! Nice work!

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    • Thank you very much Siddie, but I did definitely get overwhelmed…the whole place was so packed with detail. On the bright side, I wonder whether sometimes doing something you find intimidating can help in other ways (even if it’s just knowing you won’t do that again!). 🙂

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      • Well then, you did a great job! It looks confidently done; everything’s there; nothing looks glossed over. I’d be proud!
        Yes, definitely, i think that’s true. It can build confidence. Sometimes there are things that we think are beyond us, but half the time it’s just that we’re intimidated by them. Then, when we try them, at the very least, the mystery is taken out of it, so it becomes less daunting.

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  2. I like it! It looks like you must have spent ages sitting there to get all that done and it has a nice sense of sunlight…even if the sun DID go in! Well Done! I haven’t done much Plein Aire myself, but, what I have done has taught me that it is often a good idea to use a camera and take a few shots before you get going so if the weather conditions change you can always finish it from a photographic reference…or is that kind of cheating??! 🙂

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    • Thank you Hilda, I’m glad you like it. I personally feel that there are times when the camera is a brilliant addition to the kit, and others when part of the exercise and experience is to do what you can with what you have in the time available. This was always going to be the latter! For me, the approach makes the difference between what I’d call a ‘sketch’ (more spontaneous) versus a ‘painting,’ where I’m being very considered, and am allowed to bend the rules rather more…it’s maybe a bit idiosyncratic, but that’s how I roll. I bet I’m not entirely alone… 🙂

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  3. Haha! Well, thank you; I nearly didn’t, but the thought of regrouping with the two other fellow sketchers I was out with that day, and having nothing to show for it, did spur me on somewhat! 😉

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  4. beautiful and I like the modest colouring effect. I know what you mean about conditions changing. As a nineteen year old I was doing an ink sketch of an old house and demolition men started coming in and tearing it down. Ihad to work pretty quickly to keep up

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    • That sounds in some ways like a nightmare scenario, but maybe it was peculiarly satisfying in that, at the end, you were left with a record of something which suddenly didn’t exist anymore? But a lot of pressure while you were sketching! Thank you for your lovely comment. 🙂


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