When I lived in New York City, I would roam the streets looking for classic photographic shots. I even tried to find the same door that Walker Evans photographed – a masterful shot – but someone must have torn it down, along with the building.
One day I was walking up Lexington Avenue and saw a beautiful newspaper stand. It must have been a Sunday, since it was all locked up. It was sitting under a tall scaffolding that diffused the light perfectly. The plywood boards behind it, protecting the construction site were blue. I could hardly believe my good luck. I went back a couple of times, taking black and white as well as color film of this wonderful scene.
Here is the color photo:
Today’s watercolor experiment:
Since I have a color photograph, colorizing is out. I decided to reverse this process and paint a desaturated (black and white) watercolor rendition of this picture.
The photograph shows the newspaper stand emerging out of the darkness, so I after a quick sketch, I laid down a dark strip at the bottom of the paper. The light value of the street is the darkest value in the photo, the same value as the background. The curb is slightly lighter and the sidewalk is the lightest value aside from the white of background of the sign.
I proceeded to lay down a wash of ivory black for the background. It is really hard to do an even wash whilst going around corners, which I had to do to accommodate the outline of the newsstand. Then I started on the left hand side of the picture plane and painted the box next to the news stand proper. It was slightly darker than the newsstand proper, but I may have darkened it a bit too much. each of the red planks (to be rendered as gray planks) had the same value, with ever so slight variations of tone indicating curvatures, imperfections, and so on. Instead of using a flat wash on these boards, I left imperfections as well. Finally, I used a fine brush and painted shadows between the boards and under the railing that locks all the panels in place.
The only two paints I used were ivory black and titanium white.
I had never done a black and white watercolor before. It was fun to try but I must admit, compared to the rich tones of my black and white photographic prints (from the black and white negatives), this watercolor is very flat.
Perhaps I should investigate using different formulations of blacks and whites.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the black and white photographic print of the newsstand to display at the moment, but when I do, I’ll revisit this topic.