Watercolour painting of the sun going down over the South Downs by watercolour artist John Haywood

Watercolour: Sundown on the South Downs

I’ve had to continue working on the commission that I mentioned last week – mainly because I want to know that it’s done and dusted and that the client is happy. I think that I now have two versions to show to the client in the hope that one of them will be deemed satisfactory. The challenge I’m grappling with is that the commission is to re-paint something that I’ve done before and which has already sold. I’m struggling with trying to match the qualities of that original, which I feel is hampering my approach.

After deciding that I’d taken the commission as far as I could, for the time being, I desperately felt the need to have some fun! Now I have been keeping up as best I can with the #30x30DirectWatercolour2018 challenge which, up until day 19, looks like this:

30 skies of June (#30x30DirectWatercolor2018) - a watercolour series by John Haywood
30 skies of June (#30x30DirectWatercolor2018)

I’m still really enjoying the freedom that this exercise provides. I find that I’m increasingly painting ‘end of the day’ skies as that’s when the light is often at its most interesting and challenging. It’s nice to be over the halfway period too and I’m hoping that the second half, in terms of motivation, will feel a bit like freewheeling downhill after having pedalled up the hard bit! I’m also hoping that the end results don’t also start to go downhill too!

I’ve been keen to see whether these skies might feed into my paintings in some way and, following a little walk that I went on at the weekend, I felt I had the perfect excuse. It was a dear friend’s birthday at the and to celebrate, a select few of us met at the end of the day in country pub in West Firle, Sussex. From here, we took a short track that ran along the bottom of the South Downs to a delightful tea room where, in a pop-up restaurant in an Indian Tent we dined on Mexican food! Sounds bizarre I know but it was wonderful!

At the beginning of the walk, the sun was well on its way down and, looking towards the sun, the sky was just fabulous and I couldn’t resist capturing a stack of photos, from one of which I painted this:

Watercolour painting of the sun setting near the South Downs by John Haywood
Sundown on the South Downs

I was really pleased with this – not just because of the sky which is the obvious star of the show, but also because of some of the texture and movement in the otherwise plain and simple foreground. I also like that, despite this being painted on a quarter sheet, so quite small, it convey’s an expansiveness of landscape.

For something that didn’t take long to paint, I found this a really pleasing study and feel encouraged to try out some more like this! I could end on something about ‘the sky being the limit’, but surely that would just be too cheesy!?

Thoughts on Watercolour: Sundown on the South Downs

19 thoughts on “Watercolour: Sundown on the South Downs”

    1. Ah, no, I don’t think I did! And this was so long ago I can’t imagine what resources I may have been thinking of! Is there a particular type of sky you have in mind? I’m usually torn between trying to do skies in one take, wet in wet, or painstakingly layering up transparent washes. Both can work wonderfully (equally they can both fail miserably!)

      1. No worries, John, I was just wondering.

        Also, another thing, for some reason WordPress has seen fit to tell all that I am allotofveg. Never heard of this site and never been associated with it. Seems harmless enough and I suppose it does reflect my eating habits, so will let it be. I keep adding my real web address but it keeps overwriting it.

  1. Pingback: Big sky watercolour paintings

    1. Hi Tim and thanks so much for this – so pleased that the painting managed to capture and communicate that sense of power and who’s the boss!

  2. More like a limitless sky. That is really lovely.

    You say you can recommend some resources on how to paint skies. Could you post them, please? I just love that sky.

    That piece is going to sell at your next artists’ open house. Just wait until you really get going in plein air, then you can paint those landscapes right on site. I wouldn’t fret on the size either. After matting and framing I’ll bet it’s a very convenient size for people to hang in their rooms as not everyone has a place for a really large painting.

    1. Hi Mary and thanks so much for this. Let me have a think about what I can usefully post about the skies. I’m usually torn between a very direct approach, as I used here so it was all done in one hit, and building up really thin layers of transparent washes as exemplified by Rowland Hilder. I may need to have a think about what I could usefully post that wouldn’t just be copying out of a book!

      I don’t have any more exhibitions planned at the moment so there’s plenty of time for me to build up my collection in readiness for whatever comes up next – but I think you’re quite right about it being good to have paintings of varying sizes.

  3. Lovely watercolour work John – I love the skies and the landscape is lovely. I hope your client is happy with the painting you’ve done for them – trying to reproduce a previous watercolour is a very difficult, if not near impossible, task…

  4. Brilliant sky, John. It’s got that real sense of recession. Too often skies look “interesting” but two-dimensional: more like a wall than the inverted landscape that they really are. Top marks.

        1. Haha – please don’t do it just on my account Rob – if it happened all the time I’d get suspicious that it might not be genuine!

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