Another watercolour sunset

I was so pleased with last week’s successful watercolour paper stretching (and painting!) that I couldn’t wait to see if I could repeat it.

This subject matter I chose wasn’t my usual fare, but I thought it would present a good challenge from a ‘stretched paper’ perspective, as well as a painting perspective. Technically, I thought it presented a number of challenges, from the graduated washes in the sky and reflection through to the mass of shadowed foliage on the left.

I was a little remiss in keeping much of record as I went along but here’s how it looked after the first wash:

There’s no doubting the benefits of stretching paper when you’re working with broad wet washes – even when it turns out I haven’t done the best job of stretching the paper and it still buckles a little!

Next up was adding the distant hills, the tree line along the horizon leading round to the mass of foliage on the left, and strengthening the painting throughout.

Finally, adding in the branches of the dead tree and it’s reflections.

Overall, the image is a bit chocolate-boxy for my liking. It’s one of those views that I’m not convinced a painting like mine brings anything to that a photograph doesn’t capture. I was however quite pleased that I was able to do the scene any justice at all and, as a subject, it was a good test of the stretched paper. 

My favourite part of this painting? Well I think it’s the small 8-10cms section of distant trees behind and just to the left of the ‘dead tree’ –  I think these trees work really well in terms of tone, colour and variety. There’s part of me that feels a little despondent about this. It is, after all, a whole heap of painting to only be able to single out one small element that you think works particularly well; but perhaps each of these ‘mini-highlights’ represents a little breakthrough of some sort?

Usually, when I assess a painting, I can identify pretty quickly which parts I could paint better if I were to tackle it again. My list of potential improvements, more often than not, is pretty long! Every now then however, I think you can find a specific part of a painting, it could even be a single brushstroke – where you can take some satisfaction from the feeling that you just don’t think you could have painted that that particular element, or handled a particular brushstroke any better. However small and however infrequent these occurrences may be – I think these moments are to be cherished and celebrated, especially as we spend so much time admonishing ourselves when things don’t go as well as we’d like!

The anonymous heart charity art auction

The 2019 anonymous art auction is now live,,,,

Last year I contributed three A5 sketches to an anonymous art auction to raise funds to support the amazing work of Heart Research UK. Here’s a link the post, A wonderful watercolour feeling, Last year my contributions raised a total of £358.66 – so I’m hopeful that this year’s contributions will do even better!

The auction opened for bidding last Friday, and will close this Sunday, 13 October at approximately 9pm. It looks as if there have been 455 submissions, so you’d have to search pretty hard to find my submissions Heart Research UK Charity Art Auction

Without wishing to give too much away, this is after all an anonymous art auction, the combined bids on my submissions (yep, clue number one: there’s more than one!) so far currently exceed £100. As well as revealing which were my submissions, I’ll also provide an update on how much they raised in next week’s post.

And finally…

I’ve had a quarter sheet of paper on my Ken Bromley Perfect Paper Stretcher that’s been burning a whole in my brushes (I know that the expression is about money burning a whole in your pocket – but I hope you get the analogy!). Unfortunately, this burning sensation coincided with a complete dearth of inspiration on my part.

I can’t remember the exact chain of events, but here’s where I ended up! This is the front cover of Rowland Hilder’s 1966 classic, ‘Starting with Watercolour’:

And here’s my quick study, albeit not done in the precise style of Hilder, but more of my own interpretation and without using any gouache or body colour:

I know it was probably a little lazy of me to take this derivative approach – especially when I’ve been trying of late not to revert to ‘copying’ from others, but hey-ho – I enjoyed doing it and, for a quick sketch, I quite like the result.

Thoughts on Another watercolour sunset

21 thoughts on “Another watercolour sunset”

  1. I was looking through some of your posts I had missed and came upon your stretched watercolor sunset. Your process is fascinating, and I really love the final result, John.

    The composition is simple, but the scene is compelling to me. You captured that warm reflection of the afternoon sun just perfectly. This is a very relaxing composition for me. It just makes me feel warm and happy. I quite enjoyed your post.


    1. Thanks so much for this David, I really appreciate you visiting and your kind comments! I’ll do a post on the Watercolour Masters exhibition in the next couple of weeks! I’d love to make it up next May but I’m not sure whether my diary will allow it – it’s a really stunning line up!

  2. I get so tired of something or other changing my words…that was supposed to be PIC for picture, not PIG! Sorry!. I had trouble today not being able to answer this because instead of appearing as an EMAIL it came to me on Innterest and I was not able to (It just changed Pinterest to INNTEREST???) It came on PINTEREST! I have been watching paintings ON Pinterest and suddenly it has changed and is all screwed up? I am finding the internet is constantly being changed ….by the Nerds in left-wing California who must think if they don’t come up with innovations, they’ll lose their jobs!?? I’m sick of it…but your painting was lovely, better than the one you copied! I DO like the ‘free trees” you’d I’d last week though, it shows FEELINGS not just how well you can copy.

    1. Hi Marge, I’m delighted that we’ve been able to clear that up – even moreso because you approved of my ‘copy’! I know what you mean about technology constantly changing, but I must also admit that most of the time, I can attribute things going wrong to my own ‘user error’ rather than the technology!

  3. Am I the 1st today? I like your pig better! But we have far more colorful sunsets here in the USA! You mention that beautiful sheet of stretched paper just staring at you defying you to paint…I’ve been following Angela Fehr now for the 4 yrs I’ve been doing WCs. Lately, Angela (a Canadian artist) started stretching paper again (she used a ‘frame’ and stapled her paper around the frame…another way to stretch it! She speaks of that lovely paper daring her to put paint on it! If you want to read about it, her email is or She’s a great teacher, expresses herself very well. She’s helped me loosen up along with others. But this blog came yesterday, and is worth reading. Not fond of her paintings so much as I am of her writing. As all these people keep saying, you’ve got to take RISKS, not just repeat the same comfortable old stuff!

    1. Hi Marge and thanks for this. Not quite sure I get your reference to my pig? I should reassure you that we do have more colourful sunsets than this! It’s just that this wasn’t one of them! I think I’ve heard of Angela Fehr – possibly from you – but I’ll have a look. I’ve just ordered a larger Ken Bromley paper stretcher that will be good for half imperial sized paper. I haven’t totally given up on the gummed tape, but I think I also need something more reliable! I have seen people staple thier paper to a board, but I just don’t see this as something for me. It’ll soon be getting to the point that I’m spending more time stretching the paper than I am painting on it! As for taking risks, I feel like I’m taking a risk every time I put brush to paper!

  4. Your work are always stunning! For that trees style do you use a specific brush or is a particular technique?
    I’ll get in touch with you when I’ll have significant results with my paintings, as I promised 🙂


    1. Hi Luca and thanks so much for this. If I rememeber correctly, the smaller trees were done using just the side/belly of a size 8 or 10 round sable brush. I rely a lot on the texture of the paper to help me with this type of effect. The much darker trees in the foreground were done with a much larger ‘mop’ style brush. Hope that this is helpful Luca – let’s keep in touch!

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