A new watercolour project

The Park Gate Collective Artists Open House officially closed for business on Sunday 27th May. It’s been a great month for all of us, surpassing our expectations and leaving us all enthused about what we might do next and how we might take ‘the collective’ forward in the future!

From a personal perspective, I was delighted to sell a few more paintings. First to go was this view of La Segrada Familia:

Shadows outside La Segrada Familia

and finally, this view of the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts at the University of Sussex:

Sunlit Cafe at the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, University of Sussex, a watercolour painting by John Haywood.
Sunlit Cafe at the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, University of Sussex

Of all my paintings, this was probably the one that generated the most interest but, as time went on, I began to write off any chance of selling it. It’s a half sheet painting, so one of my larger works which, mounted and framed measures 70cms x 50cms. I originally imagined that, if it went to anyone, it would be to someone with a connection to the place.

I’m delighted however that this work will be taking up residence in Paris with an architect who has absolutely no connection with the location, but who made lots of connections with the painting – and who can ask for more than that.

While I was on duty over the weekend, I thought I’d best make myself useful and do a bit of painting. The other weekend I went to visit friends who live about 30-40 minutes outside Brighton in the countryside. The weather was gorgeous, and their house, which is also rather gorgeous, looked so magnificent that I couldn’t resist taking a few photographs.

Back home, I thought it would be an interesting challenge to do a ‘house portrait’ and, in a fit of enthusiasm, set about it during my time at the Open House.  Here’s my first take:

Cliff and Charlotte’s (take 1)

What particularly attracted me to the view was the dramatic sky and the silhouette of the house. At first, I thought this was going okay, but as I went on I became increasingly dissatisfied with it. I thought the house was too dark and gloomy looking, and the whole painting felt heavy-handed. I was finding it difficult to marry up my current preferred approach to painting, with the need to arrive at something that actually looked like the subject. The result was a distinct tightening of the hand and my brushstrokes.

Feeling a little downcast, but not entirely disheartened, I went back to my references and selected a different image, from a similar viewpoint but taken at a different time of day, later on in the afternoon. The long shadows of tree helped to break up the foreground and, with the tree, create a nice composition that I think helps focus attention on the house.

I was also keen to treat the house a little lighter and bring more of the warm terracotta coloured tiles and brickwork to the fore. For a bit more interest, I added some figures under the distant umbrella and the suggestion of a figure carrying a tray over to them. I still struggled to balance my preferred, looser approach with this self-imposed brief but I’m much more pleased with this version than my first attempt.

Watercolour painting by John Haywood
Cliff and Charlotte’s (take 2)

What’s particularly pleasing is that I’ve sent pictures of these paintings to my friends and there are positive signs that they may be interested in having one in their home, which would be wonderful!

It also opens up a rather interesting avenue of house portraits! I remember as a child my parents were approached by someone hawking their aerial photographs of our house that they’d taken from a helicopter. I can now imagine driving around the countryside doing paintings of people’s lovely houses and then trying to doorstep them with a framed watercolour!

Oh, I almost forgot – with June comes the 30×30 Direct Watercolour challenge. To make this endeavour remotely manageable, I needed to come up with something modest in scope, but also something a bit different that may even be fun. So here’s my plan:

30×30 Direct Watercolour Challenge – day 0

Aside from this being another contender for the most boring photo on the internet – this is an old imperial sized sheet of Bockingford paper that I’ve taped up into 30 small squares.

My plan is to do small sky studies in an instagram / squarish format. I’m still deliberating whether these will be skies only, or whether they’ll include a skyline of some sort, or maybe some telephone wires, or jet streams etc that I thought might make some interesting little abstracts. I’m nervously excited about this. I have no idea whether I’ll stick with it but I’m hopeful that it’ll prove to be an interesting little project on the sidelines!

Thoughts on A new watercolour project

14 thoughts on “A new watercolour project”

  1. Pingback: Watercolour reflections –

  2. So many exciting events in your life lately, John. Shows, sales and then another sale to boot! I have no idea what I will be doing in regards to the challenge, I need something totally different and slightly challenging, I don’t want to get overwhelmed. Oh, I also like the second house portrait. Cheers!

    1. Hi Margaret and yes, I must confess that it’s been a surprisingly good month! The 30×30 challenge will probably calm me down a bit though! Like you, I need to avoid any that feels overwhelming although as I look at the grey skies this morning – my sky a day idea is feeling a tad uninspiring! Look forward to seeing what you get up to! Thanks Margaret

  3. John, thanks for the wonderful post. I really like how you take us through your creative process and share your thoughts about how to properly convey the image that you saw. This is not only interesting, but quite helpful to see into your design process. And of course, the second version of your house subject is really gorgeous. I always enjoy your posts. Thanks again.

    1. Hi Tim and thanks so much for this – I really appreciate it. So pleased you like the posts and some of the paintings – your positive comments and feedback really help to make it all feel worthwhile! Thanks again

  4. La Segrada Familia is really quite lovely. I always liked that painting of the University of Sussex cafeteria. I understand why an architect would be drawn to it. If he hangs it in his office who knows? You might get an e-mail from France asking about a painting.

    I love the sky in your first Cliff and Charlotte’s but I do think the second painting is an improved version. The slight change in aspect really sets it off, plus the small details outside the house. I agree lightening the house does make for a cheerier panting.

    What a great idea for the 30 x 30. I was thinking of doing the same painting multiple times. Perhaps choosing one per week and doing it every day for a week, just for practice. Changing paper and paints, perhaps, for variety. I have several subjects that have been giving me problems with areas I need to practice to improve. Either that or I am going to take a sketchbook I have that has 30 pages and go outside and do a sketch a day, even if it is only in the backyard, front yard or across the street. Or even just something inside the house that is catching the light.

    I don’t do Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any of those other platforms but I have downloaded the SKTCHY app on my phone and iPad. It appears to be some sort of sharing program for artists so I am going to try to post my paintings on that for the 30×30, even if no one sees them. Marc Taro Holmes is on it as I searched for him and added myself as a “follower”. Jane Blundell is on there too but with nothing to share.

    I almost don’t want to know but…..did anyone buy “Crossing Le Pont Alexandre III, Paris”?

    1. Hi there and thanks for all of your positive and encouraging comments – all much appreciated! I like your ideas for the 30×30 challenge. I don’t know about you but I know that the only way that I’ll persevere with this, is if it’s fun (and easy!) – so now I have a loose framework, I’ll be focussing on fun and easy in the hope it will help me see it through! I’m personally very fond of tackling the same (or similar subjects) repeatedly. I like that they end up different each time and that, on the whole, I feel happier with the last one than the first one. I wish you well, whatever approach you take! I’m slightly the opposite to you on the social media front! to lesser and greater degrees, I’m on here (WordPress), Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Oh, and Pinterest – and I really can’t face adding any more to this list! I’ll have to see how the first week goes before deciding on what I share! As for the painting you enquired about… I’ve done a few paintings of this view, some of which have sold. From the title, if you mean this one: https://johnhaywoodwatercolours.co.uk/gallery/#jp-carousel-6815 – no, nobody bought this one (is that a good thing!?)

      1. Don’t know if it’s a good thing or not.

        If I might inquire, how much are you asking?

        Then I can say whether it’s a good thing or not.

          1. And the answer is…..it’s a good thing because now it’s going to be mine.

I'd love to hear any thoughts you have about this

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