Watercolour painting of boats against a sunset by John Haywood

A surprise watercolour shortlisting!

Worthing Open 2018

Friday 2nd November was the Private View of the Worthing Open 18 exhibition. I was already in a good mood having spent a lovely day enjoying the delights of Worthing with my daughter who was still on half-term holiday. This good mood was bolstered even more when, on arrival at the exhibition and after having done a ‘hunt mum and dad’s pictures out with my daughter, I discovered that my watercolour painting had been ‘shortlisted for prize’! Suffice to say I was bowled over at this! Out of 563 entries and 148 selected for the exhibition, my painting was one of only five to be shortlisted for a prize. It felt like a tremendous accolade and, even though I didn’t actually end up winning anything, that didn’t really matter – it felt great just to be in the running!

The private view was really busy and there was a lovely buzz in the air – due mainly I think to the guest list being made up of the artists and their friends that had either been selected or those that had submitted work. I really would have liked to have been a fly on the wall near to my painting so that I could have overheard any discussions about it, but it felt slightly awkward and predatory to be about hanging around my own work too closely! During the speeches, it was announced that due to the success of this year’s exhibition, in 2020 the gallery will be dedicating even more of its rooms to the exhibition which is great news. The gallery and one of the judges were also at pains to express that had the judging been done by the same people on another day, it would probably have turned out a very different exhibition and that anyone that was unsuccessful with their submissions should try not to take it to heart. After having fruitlessly submitted my ‘shortlisted’ painting to about six or seven other competitions this year, this carried a personal poignancy from which I hope others may also be able to take some solace!

At this point, I jumped off to seek out an inspiring quote about persistence. I found many, but only one that induced a wry smile:

If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.

W.C. Fields

As a slight aside, I rarely publish any prices for my paintings on this site, preferring instead to direct people through to my ‘how to buy‘ page. I can imagine that seeing the price tag on this painting may raise the odd eyebrow so I feel compelled to do a ‘just for the record’ explanation. This price is more than I would usually charge for a half imperial sized watercolour (including conservation quality mount, backing and oak frame) when I’m selling directly via my website or through an open house etc. In this instance, however, the gallery charges a commission of 40% plus VAT on any work sold – so if this work were to sell via the gallery, I’d receive less than half of this purchase price. This commission rate is not dissimilar to most of the other competitions I’ve entered this year and, on each occassion, I’ve deliberated long and hard about the price I quote. I daresay I’ll continue to deliberate long and hard about the ‘value’ of my work for many years to come!

The anonymous heART project

This charity art auction went live on Friday 2nd November and runs until the 11th November, so you still have a few days to check out what’s been submitted, have a guess at who might have submitted what, make an offer on something totally unique, and support a great cause!

Here’s  little promo video from Heart Research UK:

It’s quite hard to go into much detail about my contribution to this initiative as it’s supporsed to be anonymous!  I don’t think it’s giving away too much, however, to say that so far, the combined value of bids that my submissions have attracted is already over £100 mark. This is obviously great news and, with five days still to go, I hope this may go even higher! I really hope that whoever wins my pieces won’t be disappointed at not securing the work of anyone famous!

You can see a list of all the contributors or visit the auction and place a bid until Sunday 11th November. I’ll be keeping a close eye on the bidding as the auction progresses and look forward to being able to provide an update in the near future. 

A composite watercolour

When it comes to my own painting I’ve felt a bit short of both time and inspiration recently. On reflection, the old adage of ‘necessity being the mother of invention’ seems pertinent as I’d been hankering after a ‘big sky’ to wrestle with but wasn’t sure in what context. Then, while perusing a friend’s Facebook feed, I came across a really lovely silhouette. While I loved the silhouette, the sky wasn’t quite what I was after but I knew that I’d taken some photos of some skies in Brighton recently. After a little bit of digging around the archives I decided to try a quick painting based loosely on these two images:

I must confess that one of the main aims of this exercise was to not get too bogged down in anything particularly complex. I really just wanted to paint, have some fun doing it and hopefully end up with something effective. How do you think I got on?

Watercolour painting of boats  against a sunset by John Haywood
Boats at sunset

I really like the photograph of the boats and can imagine using this as a motif with which I can practice quite a few different skies. In this particular instance, I do like the silhouette I achieved, and the sky is sort of okay, but perhaps feels a little heavy handed. It was good practice for working wet into wet and to be constantly assessing and judging how wet the paper was and how much moisture and pigment I was carrying in the brush at any time. I suppose it’s a little bit chocolate-boxey in some ways but it was a quick and fun exercise to do.

Hopefully, with all of the excitiment of this month almost out of the way, I’ll find something to really get my teeth into soon (not to mention finding the time to get my teeth into something!)

Thoughts on A surprise watercolour shortlisting!

30 thoughts on “A surprise watercolour shortlisting!”

  1. Pingback: Watercolour deja-vu…

  2. Congratulations, John! You are certainly getting the recognition that you and your work deserves. 😊. Who knows, one of these days I will be able to say, “Yes, John is so nice for such an accomplished artist. He actually responds to messages. ”

    Just kidding. But in all seriousness, you are great. Keep having fun and keep sharing. You are an inspiration.

    1. Thanks so much Tim, I really appreciate your comments – the likes of which keep me inspired! I think it will be a long old time before I’m too ‘grand’ to respond to anyone’s messages! Thanks so much for the support Tim!

  3. Re: the “Boats at Sunset” watercolor, it is a most beautiful sky indeed. Rather than being heavy-handed as you mentiond, it looks luminous and full of motion. I can just smell the fresh ocean air!

    We are on the Atlantic coast across the pond from you, and our skes looked just like that last week. How wonderful that your skills enable you to bring such a scene to life. Thank you for freely sharing your thoughts and your artistic endeavors..

    1. Thanks so much for your kind comments – I’m so pleased that you liked this painting (and am aware that I can often by my own harshest critic!). So great too that you’re on the coast – I think there’s something wonderful to be able to take yourseful to where you gaze out to the horizon line of an ocean! Thanks so much for getting in touch, I really appreciate it.

    1. Hi Nikesh and thanks so much for your kind words – I’m so delighted that this post connected with you and really appreciate you commenting.

  4. Far too much content here so I’ll have to respond selectively!
    Congratulations on your success at the exhibition – even more unlikely than your statistics suggest since, in my experience, there’s always firm pressure on the panel to choose “known” artists for prizes since they’re the ones who’ll make a noise and question the judging criteria/ability if they’re not chosen. (You’ll have guessed by now that this is my own personal sour grapes from a recent experience!) So double well done indeed; you’re on the first rung of the ladder to fame! You must be proud the way it looks on the wall there and I think it’s okay to be proud and brazen about lurking nearby, too; after all, it’s not every day of the week you get the chance. And, if they’re already well disposed, people rather like it if the artist steps forward to explain some aspect of the location or technique. Then they can go and tell their friends about meeting the artist himself. They might even buy it!!
    And what goes for prizes goes for prices; “knownness” is all. (I do feel you’re on safer ground to keep the price the same wherever you show a painting, though, no matter what the framing-costs/commission etc. in case a buyer feels hard done by. Not sure about this.) But I do rather like your pricing approach, which hints at a link between pounds and square inches! It would be nice to bring in a law that all art should be sold per square inch – or perhaps per square-inch-hour – so that all work stands an equal chance of making reasonable money as long as someone wants to buy it. (Mind you, I also think that all workers should be paid the same so I’m not a reliable yardstick in this respect.)
    And the painting? Great. Not nearly as tentative as my version would have been – just look at the confidence in those masts and that rigging! I probably would have worked with the original sky, too, since it’s a little more surprising than the one you grafted on but à chacun son goût, which I seem to say more and more often now that I can spell it.

    1. Hi Rob and thanks for this. As ever, really helpful and thought provoking, especially about the pricing! I quite understand that thought of keeping prices the same no matter where one sells, it makes perfect sense. I think I’ve based my prices in some part on ‘what would I be prepared to pay’ and, as I’m poor, frugal and tight, I think I may err on the side of caution! There’s another side of me that thinks I’d rather price my work and a point that sells, rather than not sell. As I mainly sell ‘direct’ I think this has made that easier to work out. As I mainly paint either quarter sheet or half sheet, I do base my prices on size – with the half sheet being slightly less than twice the price of a quarter sheet. The mounts and frames are just doubled up in price, but I don’t put any mark up on the mounts and the frames. I don’t know if this the right way or the best way to do it. And this is before we even start to consider my ‘knownness’ (or lack of!). I think this will be one of those things that rumbles on! Maybe if this one sells (it’s on display for 6 months so plenty of time yet!) it’ll give me the confidence to increase my prices a bit! Thanks so much for the kind comments about the silhouette painting and I know what you mean about the sky – I did feel a little but unauthentic about transposing my sky onto this image. Maybe I’ll try another one and try to keep it true to the source photo. Also, if it’s any consolation, last time you mentioned à chacun son goût – I had to cut and paste it into a translator to find out what it meant. So your comments are thought provoking, informative and educational!

  5. Wow huge congratulations John…you nailed it and your perseverance paid off! I think I said in my last post that I had a feeling things would go in your favour now! You should be feeling both very thrilled and proud. Enjoy the moment!😀

    1. Hi Carole and many thanks for this and of course I’m delighted that your premonition came true! Hopefully it’s a precursor of things to come!

  6. I do really like your boats at sunset.

    I think for show paintings like yours, the rule of thumb is, add up the cost of materials and cost of your time spent, then double it.

    You may not have won a prize but being shorlisted to the final five is huge. If that painting sells, which it is likely to do, then you have “won” a prize of sorts. You should enter this show every year. You name will become a little more known in the circles of those on the other end and it might open up other shows to you. I think who you know can be a lot of what it going on with these shows. If two paintings are “equal” they tend to go with the artist they are familiar with rather than a name they are not.

    Congrats on the charity auction. I forgot what painting you donated to them. But that is also a “win” with your name getting out there.

    1. Hi Mary and thanks so much for this. I think the whole approach to pricing is quite tricky. I get the idea of your suggestion but the difficult bit is putting a price on one’s time. It’s back to that old thing of how to put a price on the years of practice that goes into being able to do a painting in what might be quite a short space of time? I’ve done a lot of looking around at other people’s prices but have also spent a lot of time considering ‘what would I pay for it’. I do do as you suggest when it comes to the mounts and frames which are much more easy to quantify. I confess, it’s a conundrum and one that I daresay may trouble me for a long time to come! I think you’re right about entering this competition again. The next one will be in 2020 – who knows what sort of paintings I’ll be turning out by then!
      As for the charity art auction, as it’s all anonymous, I haven’t publically shared what I submitted but I will once the auction has run it’s course. Everything that I submitted has got a bid against it so who knows, it may well introduce me to some potential new collectors! Thanks so much Mary!

    1. Thanks so much Graham! The exhibition is on for five months so plenty of time yet and I’m really pleased that ‘shortlisted for prize’ will remain on the label for the duration. (I’m still not going to hold my breath on selling it, but it would be a lovely bonus!)

  7. Congratulations on being on the short list, I agree, regardless if you didn’t win, it is a Big deal! Now you are on a roll, I have found that a little confidence in all the right places is what opens you up for exploring and ‘playing’ with watercolor. Now you will be getting to where you are hoping and aiming for. I love the sky on your last painting. I do see a little uncertainty on the silhouette but I can understand why, it seems like it is the most important aspect of the painting and you have to get it right. I imagine the more you explore and let go, you’ll marry it up with that need to get it right and that uncertainty will fall away. Does this make sense? I am literally shooting in the dark. Bravo for you, I am excited to see more. A very big door has opened for you. Cheers!

    1. Thanks so much Margaret and I think you’re quite right! We’re all on our own little trajectories and we each of us have our own individual milestones and I think this is a significant one for me! As for my most recent painting, I agree that the silhouette may display a little uncertainty and yes, I think it’s because I felt it needed to be accurate so got a bit tight. I think it’s also trying to find that balance in a painting between more loose and less controlled areas juxtaposed or interspersed with more defined areas. Still, it’s nice to be painting with a spring in my step although the nights have really started draw in here which is curtailing even further my opportunities for painting!

      1. Exactly! A spring in your step and brush!! I wasn’t being critical, I am sure that you know that. I was being observant and I also see that tight uncertainty show up in my work all the time. So true, have to make the loose and needed carefulness to marry up with a good seam. 😉

        1. Thanks Margaret and I’d like to hope that I know you well enough to appreciate that your comments are always based on constructive observations rather than ‘criticisms’! (And they’re always much appreciated!)

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

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