In 2019 I posted a John Singer Sargent watercolour titled “White Ships” on social media. I spoke about the freshness and spontaneity of Sargent’s brush stokes and how Sargent would “draw” with his brush. It’s a technique that I’ve tried to cultivate in my own painting to bring movement and life to my paintings. Almost as soon as I’d posted the image, one of my clients commissioned me to do a watercolour of “White Ships”.
In my version, seen above, I’ve avoided using any gouache and wax for some of the finer, lighter areas. You can see how Sargent used wax to capture highlights and reflections in the hull of the boats. I’ve simply left those parts of the painting lighter. Also Sargent used body colour for other details like the anchor and the orange ropes. I’ve just used watercolour instead which gives you a very similar effect.
When I first started to study portraiture in oils I copied a number of John Singer Sargent portraits including Head of a Capri Girl and Spanish Gypsy Dancer. This was the first time I’d copied one of Sargent’s watercolours. I have to say that I really enjoyed the whole process of studying each brush stroke, emulating the freshness of his studies. I’m considering painting another one of Sargent’s watercolours of boats for our own collection at some point soon.