I live near the Forth Bridge. I must have travelled over it hundreds of times in my life – thousands, maybe – as I used to commute between Fife and Edinburgh by rail every weekday. Even now, I can see part of it from my front window.
Finished in 1890 to carry trains over the Firth of Forth, the reddish-brown, angular structure of the cantilever bridge is functional rather than beautiful. I’ve done several paintings of it in the past and know it can be a nightmare to get right, especially if you’re trying to represent the entirety of it. The engineering is very complex.
I recall I once did a half-sheet painting of the whole Forth Bridge viewed from the south end. That painting gave me sleepless nights. The perspective was hard to manage but the main problem was scaling. As I got close to finishing, I realised the spaces between the internal girder-work braces were way too large. I’d made them too fine and narrow. So, I just added a few more. Nobody who saw the painting noticed. I swore I’d never paint the thing again. But here I am…
The Painting Process
I’ve limited myself to a section of the bridge, seen at sea level from the harbour at North Queensferry. The bridge looks gigantic when you’re close to it. If you want to paint it and do a thorough job, I’d suggest you should tackle the project on a large scale. However, I’ve flown in the face of that. Mine is a small painting, only 6 by 6 inches. To cope, I kept the treatment loose (by my standards) and tried not to get bogged down in detail. I’ve deliberately ‘fuzzed’ a lot of the internal struts and braces.
My palette consisted of only 5 colours: Naples Yellow, Light Red, Brown Umber, French Ultramarine and Ivory Black. Naples Yellow, which is close to the colour of cream, and Light Red, a red shade of brown, are paints I don’t use much. Actually, I can’t recall the last time I used Light Red… years ago, anyway. I’m surprised my paint tube hasn’t dried up. So, the colour scheme was a bit of a departure for me. I like the combination, though.
Unframed watercolour painting. Size: 6 x 6 inches / 15 x 15 cms.