Bad watercolour news. Good watercolour news.

It feels as if it’s become some form of cathartic therapy now to pass on my ‘latest bad watercolour news’. I received news last Thursday that my two entries to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition had, after the customary ‘careful consideration by the judges’ been unsuccessful in making it to the next stage of the selection process.

The RA Summer Exhibition promotes itself as the world’s largest open submission art exhibition. It also attracts submissions from many very well established artists too so this news wasn’t entirely unexpected. On the bright side, it has given me the inspiration for a future blog post. It’s going to be entitled ‘The price of (watercolour) failure’ in which I tot up how much I’ve spent on fruitless exhibition entries.

This shall have to wait however as I currently have another five works that I’ve recently submitted to the Jacksons’ Open Painting Prize 2018 (JOPP 2018). I’m still awaiting news of the judges’s ‘careful consideration’ and shall, be it cathartic or celebratory, be sharing any news with you shortly.

So, enough of the bad news, what about the good news?

In short, here are a couple of paintings that I’m really quite pleased with. The first is a scene from Barcelona. Remarkably, it’s almost a year on since we went to Barcelona and my photos from that trip are still proving a rich source of inspiration!

Morning coffee, Barcelona

This was quarter sheet was painted quite quickly and quite loosely. Even after I’d reached a point that I could consider it ‘finished’, I wasn’t at all convinced by it. It just felt a little bit ragged. The figures in particular were a little too vague and indistinct for my liking. From a distance, however, I do think it captures the feel and atmosphere that I was seeking – of taking time out for relaxing morning coffee on a bright day.

After my initial scepticism about this painting, and as long as I don’t scrutinise it too closely, the more time I spend with it, the more I like it!

Buoyed by my approach to this painting, my next choice of subject was something a little closer to home: Trafalgar Square, London. I’ve said before that I’m wary of trying to paint well known or famous views so even now I’m a little surprised that I went for this particular scene.

Trafalgar Square, London

My intention was to tackle this using a limited palette of grey-blues using combinations of cerulean, cobalt and French ultramarine mixed with light red. I did manage to stick mainly to this range of colours I but did also lapse into a little yellow, for the greens of the distant trees, and a little turquoise cobalt, which I used with blues for the water in the fountain.

There’s a tremendous amount of simplification of all the background buildings that, in life, are riddled with architectural details. I thought I could get myself tied in knots trying to capture these when, the focus in my mind was trying to capture the sense of light, with the fountain the main focal point, and everything else playing a supporting role.

Most of the white of the fountain is the white of the paper, with only the odd touch of white gouache here and there for the odd highlight. I recently did a painting (or two I think!) of another fountain in Dieppe and, based on what I learnt doing those paintings, I did have a certain plan of action for depicting this fountain. This plan was mainly to do some careful negative painting and some equally careful dry brush painting at the end.

Even with a plan, however, I did on occasion have to have words with myself about getting too tight, at which point I forced myself to move on quickly and work on another element. I’m taking it as a sign of continued progress that these ‘alarm bells’ are ringing earlier and earlier – often when there’s still time to prevent irreparable damage to the painting. It’s not that long ago that I’d be looking at a finished painting and only then realise and bemoan the fact that I’d allowed myself to tighten up too much.

To conclude then, I think after receiving news of my latest rejection (little sad face), these two paintings couldn’t have come at a better time as they have really helped me to keep everything in perspective (really big smiley face).

Thoughts on Bad watercolour news. Good watercolour news.

12 thoughts on “Bad watercolour news. Good watercolour news.”

  1. I do like Trafalgar Square. Almost as much as your Brighton Pavilions one.

    You are like Puccini or Gauguin. You find more inspiration in exotic places than your own back yard.

    1. haha! I must confess that Puccini and Gaugin are both new and very unexpected comparisons! I think for me, when I’m in my own backyard, I usually busy/pre-occupied and tend to take everything for granted. I feel that my senses are somehow much more alive when I’m somewhere new (not to mention generally being much more relaxed when on holiday!)

  2. Hello John,
    I love both of your paintings and love your blog. It reminds me of my own struggles and makes me realize that we all ( watercolor artists) are in it together.
    Thank you for your blog,

    1. Hi Yoha and thanks so much for getting in touch and saying ‘Hello’ – I really appreciate it. So pleased too that you like the blog (and yes, it’s certainly reassuring to know that we’re all in it together!) – Thanks again for getting in touch, hope we can also keep on touch! Kind regards, John

    1. Thanks so much for this, so pleased to have impressed and inspired! I look forward to seeing how you get on with fountains!

  3. I would just like to say, that no matter what anyone else thinks, your work speaks to me and I find it incredibly beautiful and that’s really what art is all about. I see juried pieces and walk away. I would never walk away from your paintings. Judges don’t know what others like. They have tunnel vision and perhaps a bit of an ego problem. It was like that for the Impressionists as well. People know what they like and love and that’s where art belongs. In the hands of those people who love it. Well done.

    1. Thanks so much for this – I really appreciate it, and to know that my works speaks to you is just wonderful for me to hear and it plain makes my day!

  4. Got to focus on the good stuff. Competitions are always have a bit of randomness in them. Decisions are subjective. Best to strive for the picture you want to make.

    1. Many thanks Aletha – and I think you’re quite right. We have to focus on what we want to do and the direction we want to take our work – there’s no point trying to second guess what selection jurors are looking for! Many thanks for the encouragement, it’s much appreciated!

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