Lavenham's Urban Sketch: Capturing a Tearoom in Watercolours

Introduction: A Charming Encounter Leads to a Unique Commission

My adventure into the quaint and picturesque world of urban sketch watercolours took an exciting turn with a commission that was as charming as it was challenging. It all began when Karen, a delightful patron, discovered my work in a local restaurant and envisioned something special for her daughter's beloved tearoom - Tatum's Teahouse, located in the historic heart of Lavenham.

Tatum's Teahouse

The First Stroke: Urban Sketching Techniques Meet Local Inspiration

Inspiration struck during a casual visit to Tatum's. Armed with my sketchbook, I embraced the essence of watercolour urban sketching, capturing the essence of this beautiful location "en plein air." The goal was simple yet ambitious: to blend traditional urban sketching techniques with my unique graphic twist, creating a piece that reflects the tearoom's vibrant character.

Navigating the Challenges: From Sketch to Watercolour

Transitioning from sketch to painting was a journey dotted with challenges. My trusty dip pen, though a faithful companion in many previous artworks, met its match against the stubborn acrylic ink. Yet, perseverance led to innovation. The studio phase of adding watercolours brought a new dimension to the piece. I initially grappled with the colour palette, revisiting Tatums to capture the true essence of its surroundings.

Watercolour Sketchbook work planning the piece

Colours and Techniques: Crafting the Perfect Palette

Here's where the fun began! Delving into my arsenal of urban sketching techniques, I experimented with various hues. From the too-bold Cadmium Yellow to the too-earthy Yellow Ochre, and the synthetic feel of Lemon Yellow, the perfect mix eventually presented itself: a delicate balance of Yellow Ochre with a hint of Payne's Grey. This blend, laid on Canson's cold-pressed 100lb watercolour paper, provided the subtlety needed for Tatums' render.

The timbers were created using a blend of Burnt Umber and Cobalt Blue (70/30 mix) It gave me a perfect off-black/brown tone for the timbers that look aged and just bleached by the sun.

Testing my Watercolour Palette to set the right tone

Precision Meets Creativity: The Ink Outline and Watercolour Brushes

Replacing my troublesome dip pen, I found solace in a William Mitchell fountain pen and post office nib, paired seamlessly with Winsor Newton Indian Ink. This duo became the cornerstone of my work, allowing me to outline with newfound confidence. For broader strokes, I turned to my beloved sable brushes and for the first time, experimented with Rosemary & Co's Kolinsky Sable square brushes, ideal for painting watercolour bricks and adding those crisp edges and textures.

Tatum's Teahouse Windows - painted using masking fluid

Innovative Techniques: Painting Watercolour Bricks and More

One of the highlights of this project was employing a unique technique for painting bricks. A playful mix of Light Red, Cadmium Red, and a touch of Payne's Grey created a beautiful gradient, perfect for the textured walls of Tatum's. The method was not just about the hues but also about embracing the randomness and vibrancy of watercolours.

Brick tones and timbers

Overcoming Fears: Masking and Detailing

Every artist has their nemesis; mine was the intricate detailing of windows and door frames. To tackle this, I turned to masking fluid from Jacksons Art Supply. This became my secret weapon, allowing me to paint freely without worrying about overstepping the boundaries.

Doors and Windows masked out with masking fluid to create crisp edges

The Final Painting: A Reflection of Tatum's Teahouse

The final piece was not just a painting; it was a story – of Tatum's, its vibrant atmosphere, and the wonderful people associated with it. Karen and her daughter were thrilled with the outcome, and the joy in Karen's eyes when she picked up the painting was the greatest reward.

Tatum's Teahouse, Lavenham - Commissioned Watercolour Painting by Rik Barwick

Your Story Awaits in Watercolour

This journey through watercolour commission Suffolk has been one of discovery, challenge, and immense satisfaction. If you're seeking to bring your own story to life through urban sketch watercolours, I'm just an email away. Let's transform your vision into a vivid watercolour reality.

Materials Used

If you are you an inspiring artist or are just interested in exploring new things, here is a list of materials I used painting this piece.

Lavenham's Urban Sketch: Capturing a Tearoom in Watercolours by The Rik Barwick Studio
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