Watercolour: ‘Marina di Pietrasanta beach’ after Ian Potts (1936-2014)

I’ve been attracted to Ian Potts’ watercolour painting of ‘Marina di Pietrasanta beach’ since the first time I laid eyes on it. It seemed then a fitting way to try to sign off on my little trilogy of painting like Potts. There are many things that I particularly like about the original painting but mainly, it’s the saturation and boldness of colour together with the abstraction and gestural quality of the composition and the mark making that I find so appealing.

This then, is what I set out to capture in my homage. I still don’t know exactly how Ian Potts went about his painting, but here’s how I went about my interpretation!

Oh, one thing that I should say is that I picked up a small set of cheap acrylic paintbrushes. A mix of smallish flat brushes and a small round brush, they’re much stiffer than anything I’d usually use for watercolour painting but I primarily bought them to use with masking fluid. The combination of the stiffness of the brushes, the fluidity of the liquid mask and the roughness of the paper does allow for some quite expressive and subtle mark making.

Hopefully, these different stages are pretty self-explanatory. Fortunately, I was trying topaint this at the same time as preparing a rather convoluted meal. I say fortunately as it meant swapping between projects which gave the painting time to dry as I swapped back and forth between palette and paintbrushes and pots and pans. I did really enjoy building up the washes and layers of the painting, and trying to apply the paint in a relaxed and expressive manner but there’s no way I’d have been able to do this without havingthe original as a guide. I just don’t ‘see’ like this! As an exercise though, I found it really valuable and I’m quite pleased with how this turned out.

Here’s the finished painting:

'Marina di Pietrasanta beach' after Ian Potts (1936-2014) by John Haywood, watercolour artist
‘Marina di Pietrasanta beach’ after Ian Potts (1936-2014)

And here once again is my Ian Potts board on Pinterest in case anyone wants to compare my effort with the original.


I’m going to be having a close look at this board again, in particular, his paintings of the fishing boatsat Hastings. I’m not intended to try to copy any of these, but I am keen to give them some detailed consideration and scrutiny because we’re going to be spending a few days holiday in Hastings (home to the UK’s largest ‘on-shore fishing fleet’). The weather forecast is great (admittedly it is only the long term forecast!) and my camera batteries are being charged in readiness!

I’ll be with family so won’t have time to paint, but I am hoping to return excited, inspired and armed with lots of new reference material.

Thoughts on Watercolour: ‘Marina di Pietrasanta beach’ after Ian Potts (1936-2014)

12 thoughts on “Watercolour: ‘Marina di Pietrasanta beach’ after Ian Potts (1936-2014)”

  1. I truly love how you are exploring. I guess because I am always searching and I am a big fan of serendipity. I took a studied look at your painting and the abstract forms is a solid base, the colors are the icing on the cake.

    For what it’s worth I think that you have it in there for seeing in more abstract ways. Perhaps not as abstract as Potts but perhaps your way of seeing will blossom. Your brain, eyes and emotions may not have tapped into it? It would be interesting to see if you can open up that door. Now I want to go plein air paint and try something different but right now it is snowing. Figures! I can’t wait to see what you will paint next. Oh, a question for you, what is your plein air set up? I need to either make an easel (my husband making it!) or buy one. It has to be compact and light weight. Cheers!

    1. Hi Margaret – thanks so much for this and apologies for such a tardy response but I’ve been away since this last post and slightly off grid! I think you might be right – that seeing in a slightly more abstract manner requires practice and application and that I’ll only achieve this with some dedicated focus.
      Sorry that the weather is holding your plein air painting is being frustrated by the weather. I’m not sure that I can be of much help on the kit front. I do have a plein air set up but I’d hardly call it lightweight – much more of an intensive workout just to get it onto location!

        1. I’ve seen that there are a few ready made ‘field’ set ups on the market but they’ve all seemed pretty pricey to me – and they slightly go against my deeply rooted DIY approach! (I’m so often my own worst enemy in this respect!) – if I see anything that strikes a chord with me I’ll be sure to forward the details on!

  2. More fine work, John. I imagine he must have taken a similar painting route to you get such a strikingly similar result – though he probably wasn’t cooking at the same time. Since you’re about to launch into producing your own “Potts”, I thought it might be interesting to look at the material he was working with. Something like this (https://www.bagnofirenze.it/ – bottom picture) I imagine. My problem is always making the leap from what’s before your eyes to a “work of art” on the paper. I usually chicken out and concentrate on spending time choosing/photographing a scene which needs very little interpretation. You, on the other hand, are going to Hastings to show us how it’s done. I can’t wait!

    1. Hi Rob and thanks for this – great find on sourcing something similar to his original inspiration! I must confess that I’m already having a crisis of ‘self’! I do really like and admire Pott’s paintings but deep down, I know that they’re just not how I see the world or a scene. I can already sense that when I’m in Hastings, I’m going to be trying to look through a Potts lens, when what I should probably try to do is just respond in a way that feels true to me. I’m not usually much of one for this much introspection – I think I need to go to Hastings, hopefully return feeling inspired and just chuck some paint on some paper! While Potts paintings are wonderful, they are also quite ‘mannered’, and I find that they require as much planning as they do painting – whereas my usual approach is to jump in with the painting and to see where it leads me. In short, Rob, don’t get your hopes up!

      1. Sorry to reply so late on and there’s one of my pontifications coming up so brace yourself. I think I have to differ from you on this one. I doubt that this picture accurately represents how Potts “saw the world” – unless he had eye trouble – but he knew that if he just painted what was there, then he wouldn’t have much of a painting. In that sense I don’t think it’s enough to “respond in a way that feels true to” you. That’s effectively what the average kid does when asked to paint a scene and, despite what we are told about the marvels of children’s paintings, I don’t find them very interesting unless they were painted by my own children! I think it’s much more likely that interesting paintings have to be done in a “mannered” style in order to raise them above average work and that this can certainly be based on a fairly mechanical process. You do the same yourself when you simplify buildings and trees and people in the style of Wesson et al; you simply say to yourself, “Ah, it’s a tree. Now how do I/does Wesson do trees? Ah yes…” The trick is, as far as I’m concerned, to answer this question in a way that is somehow different from most other watercolourists. In the present era that means that we all go to classes where we are encouraged to paint like Wesson or Zbukic or Castellano That’s fine if you don’t want to stand out but, for example, Potts worked out his own answer to “how I paint a tree/umbrella/sky” and would certainly – as a Brighton art teacher – be happy for you to borrow from him on the way to honing your own unique “interpretation” of a scene. I suppose the point I’m making is that we all see things in much the same way but you won’t get far if you paint them the same as everyone else.

        1. Hi Rob – many thanks for this and apologies for the tardy response, combination of being away and having so much to say in response that I don’t know where to start! In short, yes. I agree with all of this! I think I’m still so early on in my journey that I don’t yet have the courage of my own convinctions. I definitely see a gradual improvement in my painting but, whenever I have a wobble or lack inspiration – I seek comfort, solace and guidance from those established artists that I admire (including all of the usual suspects of Zbukvic, Castagnet, Wesson etc). I think that each time I touch base with the work of these artists, I pick up a few new thinks to try, but it subsequently takes me a while to recover and regain my own approach. While I admire all of these artists, I don’t wish to paint ‘exactly’ like them, but I do want to learn from them. Hopefully, somewhere out of all of this I will in time arrive at my way of doing things. I’ve had cause to look back over the paintings of the past year and I can discern the beginnings of a distinctiveness. After my recent dalliances with Ian Potts, I hope this might even become more accentuated – I’m certainly excited by what’s already on my easel for next week which in itself feels great! I don’t really think this is an answer of any sort, more just a rambling diatribe – for which I apologise – but if you will write such thought provoking comments… thanks so much Rob!

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