When one watercolour door closes, another one opens

Before Covid-19…

… I was due to be heading to Cambridge this weekend for my Alvaro Castagnet Masterclass workshop. This was booked back in January and I’d been so looking forward to it. As the saying goes however, the writing was on the wall some time ago. I resigned myself to it being cancelled long before I received formal notification from the organisers.

May is also when I would normally be participating in the annual Brighton Festival artists open houses event. This year I had been invited to show at 64 Sandgate Road – part of the Fiveways group that started off Brighton’s now prolific Open House movement over thirty years ago.

64 Sandgate Road is the house of Philippa Stanton, aka @5ftinf. I met Philippa at the Open House I did last year and, at the end of 2019 when I found myself open house ‘homeless’ this year – Philippa took pity on me and kindly invited me to show in her house.

Naturally, this again was pre B.C. (Before Corona). As with just about everything else, this year’s Open Houses have been postponed but Philippa isn’t one to be deterred by a mere global pandemic!

Instead, Philippa is taking her Open House online. Using her main Instagram account @5ftinf (followed by over 400k people around the world!) – Philippa is conducting a series of live interviews and demonstrations with the artists and makers that would otherwise have been exhibiting in her house.

Philippa has also set up an online shop/gallery where people can see and buy work from all of the artists and makers.

Philippa and I will be in conversation on Saturday 16th May at 2pm GMT – and I’ll also be doing a bit of work on a painting too. Having never done anything like this before, I have absolutely no idea how it will work – or even if it will work at all!

So, instead of a painting masterclass with Alvaro Castagnet this weekend – I’ll be doing a live interview and demo of my own!

In preparation – I’ve been turning my mind to what I might paint. I want it to be a local view and, at the moment and am thinking it will be a Brighton station view.

Here’s something I painted that I thought may do the trick:

Arriving home, Brighton station

I won’t paint this exact view or composition, but I’d like to keep some elements of it! I was quite pleased with how the figures turned out and I like some of the looseness in the roof. It’s perhaps a little too symmetrical as a composition so I need to have a little play around but I enjoyed painting this. I only hope I can convey some of this when speaking and painting live on Saturday!

The interview will take place on instagram via Philippa’s account, so please do stop by and say hello if you can!

Here’s another painting that I’ve just completed too. This time the inspiration came from a photo on Instagram by Simone Arruda in Sau Paulo. The original photo was in black and white but I was struck by the contrast and atmosphere and felt challenged to paint it. Afterwards, I shared it with Simone and she very kindly granted me permission to share it.

Morning papers

Again – there are some elements about this that I’m really pleased with and I do like the overall atmosphere and sense of light pouring in through the window.

Painting it also really made me hark for the day when we can sit in a cafe again and just read the papers!

Returning to my Alvaro Castagnet workshop – I’m delighted to be able to report that it has been rearranged for a similar time in May 2021 and that my place is already booked!

Thoughts on When one watercolour door closes, another one opens

19 thoughts on “When one watercolour door closes, another one opens”

  1. I had to laugh at your “BC” joke. Pretty darn spot on. Congratulations on your on-line adventure. I hope you have great luck. I am sure you will do an amazing job.

    The two paintings you posted here are both beautiful. That cafe scene is so warm and inviting. Well as always you brightened my day. Thanks and wishing you all the best in your new adventure!

    1. Thanks Tim – really pleased that you liked the paintings and I appreciate the good wishes for this weekend’s online interview. I’m feeling quite nervous about it to be honest but nothing ventured nothing gained!

  2. I look forward to watching you on Saturday. You seemed to carry it off well enough when I visited your open day in Brighton so it can’t be more intimidating than that, can it? I think you’re right to look for a less symmetrical view of the station – but then you already have a number of such views in your locker… The figures look good, as you say, but just make sure your reflections are vertical or someone like me will mention it! And what’s all that smoke up in the roof? Have they brought back steam down your way? (I do like a little joke; get your own back on my instagram where I am rob_in_cottenham). Anyway, I hope the technology doesn’t get it the way; it’s the only thing that could go wrong and, even then, everyone would be very understanding.

    1. Hi Rob and thanks for this – much appreciated! I had hoped to do a landscape format painting but think for it to work best on Instagram it will have to be a portrait format. I won’t be able to do a full demo – more of a work in progress. I’ve watched a couple of other participants interviews and I’m hoping that I won’t be in for Paxmanesque grilling! Thanks for putting your hand up on Instagram. Our approaches are so different – I really wouldn’t know where to start if I was to try to emulate your paintings! Look forward to seeing many more of your paintings!

        1. I’m no expert but my personal favourite to date is one called ‘Vallejo’ – it’s blue so stands out and it’s got a greater viscosity to it than the winsor and newton equivalent that I’ve often found to be a bit ‘gloopy’ and hard to apply with much sensitivity or accuracy. I’ve only every used it vary selectively and sparingly so I can’t really speak about its coverage!

        1. I’ve used those adjustable ‘liner’ pens before quite successfully but these do also seem to work better with the Vallejo fluid than the winsor and newton fluid.

      1. To be completely boring on this subject…. I use Pebeo nowadays. I also use an old photographer’s trick: It was a bad idea to leave air in the top of a bottle of half used developer because it oxidised so the idea was to fill it up with marbles to leave no room for air. I’ve started to do the same with washed gravel in my masking fluid bottles but don’t know how much difference it makes. One thing’s for sure; you don’t have to dip the pen in very deep!

  3. Good things arise from bad…sometimes…and this is a good one for you! I hope I can figure the time difference so I can watch. Would love to “meet you” in person! I really like the choices you’ve made of which paintings to hang.

    1. Thanks so much Margery! If you’re unable to work out the timings or if it just doesn’t fit with your schedule – it will remain available on Philippa’s instagram stories account for 24hrs. I watched one that Philippa did today with another one of the participating artists and it lasted for 1hr. I feel ok about the interview part – that’ll just be an informal chat! I’m just not sure what the ‘demo’ part will consist of!

  4. I know how you feel. I was to teach for Urban sSketchers in Seattle and was slated to take a four day workshop in Seattle the next week. My Seattle class has been canceled and I just received my deposit back from the class. I know it’s a “high class problem”, but I am bummed. Looks you are fairing a bit better

    1. Sorry to hear about your cancellations. I know you’re right too that these are all very much ‘privileged problems’ but they’re still painfully disappointing! Hopefully, like mine, you’ll get the same opportunities again next year and fingers crossed that we will all be in a better place by then! Thanks so much for getting in touch and all the best!

  5. Hi John! I’m passing by that “down” moment every one pass trough as painters/artists, so I’m no productive at all. But! I’m following youre adventure by your blog and your instagram! Always inspiring, I’m so happy for you and for this opportunity that you have, you deserve it. I’ll surely watch your demo/interview on saturday, can’t wait! Compliments again!


    1. Hi Luca and thanks for this. So sorry to hear about your lull. You’re quite right though, it’s something we all have to suffer every now and then. Over time, you may be able to develop your own way of ‘helping yourself’. I haven’t totally figured it out yet but it normally involves taking a break from looking at anyone else’s paintings except my own or spending more time with just a sketchbook, or going back to some of my favourite artists and copying their work to learn new things. I don’t think there’s any single way of doing it – you just have to do what feels right for you. Hope it passes quickly and that you’re back with your brushes in your hand again soon! Take care Luca. Maybe see / hear from you on Saturday – I have no idea if the demo will work or not – I’ve never tried it before. It won’t be whole painting, maybe just looking one that I’ve got on the go at the moment and doing a little something on it! (must confess I’m feeling quite nervous about it!)

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