Le Port au Soleil Couchant, St. Tropez – Paul Signac Study

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I really love this particular painting by Paul Signac, Le Port au Soleil Couchant, St. Tropez.  The colors and composition draw my eye in so many ways.  My study is above, and the illustration I used is below.   Unfortunately, its color is rather flat and muted compared to other versions I saw.  This image was the best I could find to download and share here.

There are a number of things I like about this painting. The graduation of colors in the sky, from the blue in the upper left corner and its movement through the spectrum to green, yellow, and orange. The sailboats provide a visual dance, from the one in the center of the painting, and the especially delightful one further back on the right. That one, for some reason, just expresses joy to me. I used to sail a bit, and that one catches me in particular – the keeling over in a good wind is a grand experience! Finally, the reflections from the center sailboat along with the ones to either side, moving in to the dock. There is a sparkle and liveliness throughout the painting, and the usage of Pointillism really brings home that brilliance of the Mediterranean clime.

My own progress through this painting took a bit of time and tactical consideration. From earlier paintings I learned that an under painting of the primary colors for the section to be painted produced good results, as well as provided a structural basis for the painting. This requires a good drawing to get perspective correct.

Above, you can see the basic under painting, using colors close to the final one.

The first layer of dots goes down, and in many instances I simply used what I had on my palette, straight out of the tube. As this is gouache, even when the paints are dry, I can mush colors together on the paper if I want.

I work on my drafting table and use a large monitor to see what I am looking at. Out of range of this photo, to my right, is my Chrome Book set up.

My second layer of color was done by using a smaller brush than I used to lay in the first layer of dots. And what color did I use? White! Tap, tap, tap. I felt like a woodpecker.

Finally, the painting is close to finished. More layers of dots and various colors.  Little details were added at the end, such as the flag on the mast, the gaps in the top sail which show the sky beyond, the people in the boat, the rigging on the boat moored to the left, the upright lines on the dock in the right mid ground (more moored vessels?), and after the photo was taken, the lines on the right mooring bitt.

The takeaway here?  More understanding on using color, and the strength of a good composition.  Signac provided both, but copying brought home some lessons.  It is hard to say what I am learning here, but I do know that my hardest lesson continues to be not making mud.  Separating colors out from others – specifically, not blending them (too much) – is easily done in Pointillism.  I wonder how this will impact my future work and practice.

On to finding another Signac to study!

5 comments on “Le Port au Soleil Couchant, St. Tropez – Paul Signac Study”

  1. I think you’ve done a cracking job there. I notice on the Signac he uses different ‘grain’ for want of a better word but you know what I mean, in different parts of his, i.e much finer dots for the sky than for the foreground, do you think this helps with giving the painting a good feeling of depth?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I nioticed the smaller dots (grain), too, but attribute partly to the size of his painting, 25×32 inches, to the size of mine, probably about 7×10 at most (have not measured) as well as the medium. I used gouache, which can get picky about consistency, and oils, which are perhaps less demanding about that. Consequently, our dots may be similar in size in reality, but cover proportionally different percentages of area.

      Thanks for the compliment, too!

      Liked by 1 person

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