Grapes of wrath

I did go through a stage of reading a lot of Steinbeck books many years ago. I particularly recall The Grapes of Wrath, Cannery Row and Tortilla Flat, however, it’s probably a sign of my advancing years and declining memory that I can’t actually recall many of the details! Should anyone have alighted on this post looking for any sort of literary review, I won’t be at all offended if you decide not to read any further!  Grapes of Wrath just seemed like a fitting title for this week’s watercolour blog post!

I was greatly heartened by the response to last week’s post, in which most commenters preferred the paintings that I’d dismissed. I remained convinced however that my Welsh vineyard view had great potential even if I hadn’t quite realised it in my effort:

Sugarloaf vineyard, Wales, with the Blorenge in the background (1)

As longer term followers will be well aware, I’m quite persistent/stubborn/obsessive once I get an idea into my head, so what follows are my (mainly in vain) efforts to improve on this and convince everyone of the merits of this scene! I’m afraid I don’t have the time (or the will to be honest!) to go into great detail about each version but, suffice to say, even though it may not look it, I really did try different approaches with each of these attempts!

Sugarloaf vineyard, Wales, with the Blorenge in the background (2)
Sugarloaf vineyard, Wales, with the Blorenge in the background (3)
Watercolour painting of the Sugarloaf vineyard, Wales, with the Blorenge in the background by John Haywood
Sugarloaf vineyard, Wales, with the Blorenge in the background (4)

With this final image, with which I had a total hissy-fit in the middle of painting it such was my frustration, I feel there’s enough that’s right about it to finally move on to something else. I’m sure that this will be almost as much of a relief to others as it is to me. I must confess that I’ve found the past few weeks of painting a little disheartening.

My spirits were greatly lifted however when my daughter saw me tinkering with my plein-air setup and announced that she wanted to do a painting. So, I set her up with my easel and away she went. Here are a couple of admittedly indulgent shots of my daughter painting but, and I hope you’ll stick with me on this one… there is a point.

Nothing to fear here!
Brave and bold beginnings
The finishing touches
Now that’s how to paint dad!

Now I know that I’m biased but, I love this painting! Watching her paint and discussing some of the decisions that she was making as she went had me reflecting on my own recent travails. Here are a few takeaways that I’ve made mental notes of:

  • Have fun – my daughter had a ball painting this, something that I feel has been missing a little from my own time at the easel
  • Paint without fear of consequences – I know that I’m often painting for this blog, or Instagram or a competition or exhibition and that my desire for ‘a result’ can often constrain my approach
  • Let the paint do the work – The most exciting parts of this painting are where the paints are mixing on the paper to such wonderful effect
  • Know when to stop – this took a little bit of discussion and negotiation but, she did resist the temptation to keep on going – something I’m rarely able to resist!

So, with my own personal ‘grapes of wrath’ finally behind me, and a great lesson in the art of letting go and having fun from my daughter, I’m looking forward to tackling something new for next week!


Thoughts on Grapes of wrath

19 thoughts on “Grapes of wrath”

  1. All four points at the end I shall keep in front of me as I paint. Too often anxious about the result, as you say for an exhibition or even worse for a commission. Worse case scenario, bin it and start again

    1. Hi David and thanks for this – I must confess that I usually try to battle on with works for far too long, usually in an increasingly vain effort to ‘rescue’ something that’s long since lost when I’d be far better off consigning it to the bin and starting afresh!

  2. I love the photos of your daughter painting John – they’re lovely, and her painting is lovely too. We can learn so much from children and the “takeaways” you are outlined are such valuable lessons for all of us…

    1. Hi Evelyn and thanks so much for this, I really appreciate it! Humbling to have reached my ripe old age yet still to learning lessons from a 6 year old (but nearly 7 year old as I keep being reminded!)

  3. I was blogging about the actual book, The Grapes of Wrath, earlier this week, funnily enough, John! The opening of that book, it’s SO VISUAL……maybe you should go back to it and reread, just to enjoy the painting in words 😉 I know, that’s not the point of your blog post – Just sayin’ Oh and btw, I just love how your daughter has her paint in seashells on the table there…so cute! 🙂

    1. What a coincidence Hilda! You’re quite right, I should re-read it (make a nice change from books on watercolours!). Glad you like my daughter’s shell paint pots. We scavanged loads of them off the beach a few years ago and they’ve become a traditional part of our painting together. They’re actually surprisingly good surfaces for mixing on!

  4. I have had a few hissy fit, so I understand! I f it helps, your sky on the last two paintings seem to look effortless, especially the last one. In fact it has that particular light that I adore. I can see your fight with the vineyard. I love what you learned from your daughters’ painting venture. I agree with all of them, so hard to grasp at times but once you get it ironed out, you will grow in leaps and bounds. 😉

    1. Thanks so much Margaret, really appreciate all of this. I think I also need to take a leaf out of your book too – you seem to have managed to ‘let go’, not just once but time after time and, in doing so, are achieving wonderful results! I really need to stop fighting it so hard!

      1. If it makes you feel any better, I visited that fight time and time again. I truly feel that it is part of the process. I think that finding what it is that you are really after in your painting settles the matter. I was going against my nature by trying for reality, being tighter than I really liked. That was my initial fight. Maybe working out what is your true nature or desire in how you approach your art as opposed to what you think you are trying to achieve. Perhaps that is the struggle, the fight. Letting loose in technique is too simplistic in my opinion. Anyway, you are on your way, I see it. 😉

  5. John, thanks for the the wonderful post. All of your vinyards are beautiful, but I think I like the featured version the best.

    You are a braver guy than me to put up your earlier versions. I am too shy to do that. However, I learn a lot from your discussion about your thoughts and processes. Reading your blog has helped me think about my own photographic processes. Thank you.

    I loved the part where you showed your daughter’s painting and what you learned from her. She is definitely right about remembering to have fun. We are artists and we need to always remember that the end result is not as important as why we paint, write, photograph, etc. We just want to capture a feeling or vision that moved us, that brought out some emotional response.

    Thanks again for the beautiful work, and for baring your soul. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for these wise and supportive words, they’re much appreciated! I think I need to spend a little more time trying to enjoy the journey rather than focussing on the destination! Thanks again Tim, all the best

  6. I must say I prefer your fourth version as well, even though I usually prefer your first sketch.

    You must get your girl some decent brushes. Looks like she’s got good paper and paints. But you know those brushes will eventually hold her back. Looks very much like she’s been watching her Dad and picking up some techniques. Those splatters are tell-tale.

    Good on the carefree, unfettered freedom of your daughter. How long did Picasso work at painting as loose and imaginative as a child? I don’t usually do abstracts but I did two last week. Inspired by you I entered not one but TWO art shows. The first was easy. It was the senior art contest by the city’s park and rec department. I think they take and hang everything. Plus I’m going to get a free lunch before I pick up my painting. I’ll sit through the announcement of the “winners” but for me just getting hung in a show is a win. I may have found a small enough pond in which to be a big enough fish. I submitted a painting of my neighborhood I did from a photo I took when we walk the dogs. For the local watercolor society, I did two abstracts to conform to this month’s theme. My goal this year was to enter a show and I didn’t do the county fair and my watercolor society membership is up at the end of the month so this was my last opportunity. I entered two paintings but neither of them were one of the 115 accepted to hang or as one of the 18 alternates. They’re not in the show’s gallery for sale and I’m not on the list of accepted works. 130 didn’t get in so there is a high probability I am one of those 130. Given that, I may not renew my membership. $100 for the year, plus $20 even time I submit a painting makes it pretty expensive if I’m not good enough to get in.

    October is their International Show. Perhaps you should submit a painting to them. You can submit electronically. It’s too late for 2018 but you could plan on submitting something for 2019. You’ll need to have it ready by February for the May entry deadline for the October 2019 show. This is the show with big cash prizes. Your stuff is every bit as good as some of the pieces I’ve seen hanging. You can read about it here as I’m sure 2019 will be similar to 2018:

    Non-Members: $45 first entry; $10 each additional entry. Up to three entries. Looks like prizes range from $500 to $2,000 and the same painting can win more than once.

    Artists residing outside of the contiguous U.S. may send artwork unframed and SDWS will frame for exhibition at an additional fee for $100 half sheet (15×22) or $120 full-sheet (22×30).

    You can see a gallery of past International Shows if you’d like here:

    1. Hi Mary and thanks so much for all of this! Great news on you submitting and being selected! That’s fabulous. Thanks too for the SDWS information, I’ve heard of this competition/exhibition from other artists that I follow so it is really interesting. I’ll definitely have a look at it, I suppose there’s not too much to lose in the initial entry, but all told the entry fees / shipping / framing / return postage will probably top $200 which is quite a sum to stump up, but it would be wonderful to be selected for such a prestigious exhibition! Coincidentally enough, I’ve just received information about an open entry exhibition that’s much closer to home so I’m already planning on submitting some works to that in the hope I can follow in your footsteps and get something selected for show!! Thanks so much Mary, all the best

      1. Since you submit initially electronically you wouldn’t have the expense unless your painting was chosen, then it would be in the show. You must put a price tag on it and be willing to sell so there is the likelihood that someone will buy it and you don’t have to worry about return postage. Then there are the prizes. This show has many sponsors with awards from $500 to $1500. So if you won an award that would cover the costs. Competition is steep though, not only for an award but also just to get in. They get submissions from all over the world. But it’s very prestigious if you do get in. $45 to submit is a bit steep but that’s all you’d have to pay initially. Then just add $50 plus postage and framing costs to the asking price of your painting if you’re accepted. If you sell it, you’ve covered costs plus a bit more.

        Just have fun painting and when February – April rolls around look though your paintings and see if there is anything you’d like to submit. If not, let another year go. They do this every year and are not about to stop.

        BTW, it’s September. Are we going to see that commission you worked on?

        1. Hi Mary and thanks for this, all of which is eminently sensible! I’ll follow all of your advice about entering the competition. As it stands, I don’t feel I’ve completed anything particulary noteworthy of late but hopefully that’ll change between now and next February! As for the commission I worked on, I’m still waiting for the nod of approval that I can go public, but I warn you, it may be a bit of an anti-climax!

    1. Hi Melanie and I’m so pleased that this arrived at the right time for you and I’ll be sure to pass on your thanks to my daughter (don’t think I’ve passed on my own yet so shall do it for both of us!)

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

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