Hastings watercolour

Felt great this week to have the enthusiasm, motivation and inspiration to return to painting my own work watercolours! Last week’s trip to Hastings proved to be just what I needed to inject a little bit of the inspiration that I think has been missing of late. It never ceases to amaze me how seeing new places with fresh eyes really opens up the senses!

As I’ve mentioned previously, Hastings is home to the country’s largest on-shore fishing fleet. What’s great about this is the opportunity it gives to move freely in and around the boats so that you can get to see them from some really interesting angles and perspectives. This is what really appealed to me about this particular composition which I felt provided quite an unusual and dramatic view of the boats.

Heres the initial sketch and you can also see where I’ve applied some masking fluid. I was keen to ensure that I preserve some whites and, on the beach, I used a stiff brush to spatter some fluid onto the beach pebbles – again to preserve some whites that I hoped would add some texture and perhaps give the impression of light catching pebbles.

Outline sketch and masking fluid applied

I felt that the first wash was going to be crucial as I felt that the graduated light in the sky really sets the mood for the rest of the painting.  I wet the sky area first with clean water, then applied just the faintest washes of raw sienna on the right, and then started to add in a wash of Cobalt, moving then into French Ultramarine. These were all done wet onto already wet paper, so there was a lot of wet pigment sloshing about the place! My board wasn’t attached to an easel so I was able to pick the board up and title it in whatever direction I wanted to get the washes to mix together smoothly. I really like doing this, I love seeing the pigments mix and move across the surface of the paper.

As most of you probably know, watercolour always drys lighter than when it’s first applied and working so wet, I often feel this amplified even further.  I liked the smoothness of the wash, but the blue on the right-hand side didn’t quite feel strong enough to convey the movement of light that I’d been hoping for.

After the sky was done and sufficiently dry, I move onto the foreground. My plan was to do a light-ish wash and to gradually build up the depth of tone and texture. Hastings is a pebble beach, but there’s no way I can get into painting individual stones and pebbles so I was feeling my way along to creating something with some texture and variety but in a loose-ish manner.

First washes applied

Next up was the boats. I started with the most distant boat on the left and gradually worked my way along the line of boats. It felt good to do these in one hit because they’re all connected together and I was able to flow paint between them which I think helps to unify them.

Moving into the boats

The more I looked at it, the more I felt that the sky wasn’t working as hard for me as I wanted it to!  I liked the lightness on the left, but felt that it needed to be stronger on the right. Once the paper had completely dried out, I applied another wash, this time working from the right, using a mix of Ultramarine and Cobalt. I also didn’t wet the paper first this time. I started off quite strong and then gradually diluted the wash as I move down the page (I’d turned my board up so it was portrait). As I reached the bottom of the board, I was using pure water just to move the wash along. (I was also careful to try my best to cut around the boats that I’d already painted to avoid anything bleeding into this wash.) Once I’d finished applying this, I turned the board upside down again so that the wash would move back down towards the side of the sky that I wanted to be darkest.

This was then left to dry and, to my great relief, it looked okay and immediately felt much better!  Next up was some more texture over the foreground area, a bit of drybrush that, before it dried completely, I then wetted back a little. At this point, I really wasn’t quite sure what I was doing, nor exactly what I was aiming for – so opted to just stop.  At this point, I was wary of ruining it unnecessarily when perhaphs I’d already done enough to suggest that ‘you’re looking at some sort of a beach’.

Re-working the sky and developing the foreground

 Next up was to remove the masking fluid from the boats.

The grand reveal, when the masking fluid comes off

Obviously, some of these pure white areas are a bit shouty at this point but it doesn’t take too much work just to knock them back a bit and make them look a lot more subtle. I did this and then started to add in the final details, trying to be mindful not to overwork it.

Finally, I took off the splattered mask on the beach. I thought that this may have made more of a difference that it did, but I think it’s probably a good thing that the effect isn’t too obvious.

Removing the masking fluid from the foreground for a bit of added texture

I touched up the odd brush stroke hither and thither but then felt I had to tear myself away from it to prevent over-fiddling. Here’s how I left it:

Boats at rest, Hastings, a watercolour painting by John Haywood
Boats at rest, Hastings

Overall, I’m really pleased with how this turned out. I know it’s probably hard to tell viewing this on a screen, but one thing I like about it is that it works from a distance as well as from closer up. Still feeling enthused, inspired and motivated, I’ve already started work on another painting of boats at Hastings!

Thoughts on Hastings watercolour

23 thoughts on “Hastings watercolour”

  1. Pingback: Watercolour struggle

    1. Hi Martin and thanks so much for this, I really appreciate it! Seeing your name also made me check my emails from a long time ago and I realise that I never replied to your last message – for which I’m very sorry! I was, however, delighted to receive the update on my painting’s whereabouts and that it’s still giving pleasure! Thanks again Martin, John

    1. Hi Jean and many thanks for your kind comments, I really appreciate it and it’s all helping me feel really positive and excited about my next painting too!

  2. I think this is my favourite painting of yours yet….I love it, especially
    the blue against the warm earthy colours. I enjoy watching your process as I also like to ‘creep up’ to my finale quite gently! Beautifully done.

    Happy painting!

    1. Hi Carole and thanks so much for this, I really appreciate it, and for this to be your favourite of mine to date – well I’m delighted!

    1. Hi Evelyn and thanks so much for this – really pleased you like it! Sometimes I get so caught up in my painting that I forget to take any in progress photos but because this one had a few distinct phases, in between which I had to let things dry – it made it easier for me to remember!

    1. Thanks for this Margaret, it was really nice to be able to have full and unfettered access to these boats to be able to find some more interesting/unusual angles than is often the case witih boats! Glad you enjoyed the Q&A with Rob too! 🙂

  3. Thank you for showing your process! So helpful to me. You did a great job on the whites at the end, something I need to learn how to do. Love this painting!

  4. As you know, there are lots of great things about this one, John. but, since it’s my role herein to be critical, here are some “searching” questions for you….

    1 As a man who’s keen on having the right equipment, have you heard of Ken Bromley’s Perfect Paper Stretchers?
    2 What do you feel about the composition of this picture compared with all four of February’s headliners?
    3 Did you have an attitude (as Potts has an attitude to his foliage) to the representation of the shingle foreground in this picture or did you want to just approximate what you saw?

    Forgive me for trying to sound as if I know what I’m talking about. I don’t. But I used to be a teacher so I know how to ask provocative questions and leave people thinking I must know more than I’m saying!

    1. Thanks for this Rob and I’ve come to expect nothing less from you than some searching questions – and I’ll do my best to answer them with as straight a bat as possible!
      1. Yes, I am familiar with the Ken Bromely paper stretcher which I can evidence here: https://wp.me/p1XmzP-4l – The one I have is good for a quarter sheets. Having taughtly stretched paper would be great for this kind of work, but to be honest. I think that the photos of this most recent painting do show how the paper has cockled but, once completely dry and mounted it should be barely noticeable (fingers crossed anyway!) The paper stretcher works wonderfully but I really didn’t like how much of the painting surface I lost once you take into account the trimming and then allowing a little more for the mount. I must however say that I can think of a few paintings that have been ruined by the paint gathering in the cockled paper!
      2. My doubt about the composition of this painting is how the painting is split into 3 bands, two of which don’t exactly have a lot of action in them! On the plus side, I think they balance the painting, giving it some quiet moments and focussing the attention on the boats in the middle band. I don’t think it necessarily fits a lot of the conventions of composition, but I think/hope that it still gets away with it! I’d be interested for your take on this?
      3. Yes, I did hope to channel my inner Potts! I wanted the beach to be more ‘graphic’ and more akin to how Potts treated the beach in his Hastings paintings. I did start out to do this too. After the first beach wash, I started to add some very dark shadows with harsh edges… but then I got nervous and, before they had chance to dry, used a wet brush to rub off the edges which in turn dissapated the darkness over the beach. It wasn’t pretty to watch I have to say! Once it had dried however, I thought it looked okay – although not what I was aiming for at the outset. I think the courage of my convictions with these ‘new’ approaches will come slowly!
      I hope that these answers make sense Rob? As ever, I really appreciate our conversations!

      1. 10 out of 10 for your answers. But to answer you on question 2: I go to “improvers” watercolour classes (adult education classes at the local village college) on Monday mornings and our teacher always throws a few diagonal lines into the foreground whether they represent anything or not. “Leads the eye into the picture”, he says. As you might imagine, I baulk at this and try to break as many compositional rules as possible just to prove it can be done. I must admit, though, that your headline sketch from last week pulls me in more than this week’s version – and who’s to say there wasn’t a nice diagonal cloud formation up there, too…

        1. Thanks Rob and yes, I’m familiar with the use of those lines to lead the eye into a picture (especially in urban paintings). The lines I started to put into this painting on the beach were intended to do something similar, I’m planned them to show the steep slope of the beach – but nerves and a lack of confidence got the better of me. What your comments have made me think however, is that I should look at doing a more worked up version of last week’s ‘sketch’ – not perhaps as a half sheet, but I think it could definitely work as a quarter sheet – nice to be able to add another view to the series!

  5. Great images, darkening the sky really helps the composition as it sits well with the strong colour of the beach.
    If you ever get stuck for blog ideas I’d really like to hear about your approach to figures in your paintings.

    1. Hi Warren and many thanks for this, really pleased you like the images! As for my approach to figures in paintings, yes, of course I’ll bear this in mind for a future post. My usual approach is one of nervous trepidation! I have picked up a few tips along with way that I do find helpful and which I’m happy to share. In the meantime, here’s link to the first of two videos that Trevor Waugh did on painting figures that I recall being pretty useful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uv6aRgPHyhU – hope that this may be of some assistance. Thanks again Warren

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