A watercolour painting view from Palmeira Square, Hove, looking East along Western Road towards Brighton by John Haywood

A watercolour commission

Back in September, I was delighted to receive an email via my website inquiring whether this painting was for sale:

A watercolour painting view from Palmeira Square, Hove, looking East along Western Road towards Brighton by John Haywood
Palmeira Square, Hove, looking East along Western Road towards Brighton

I replied pretty much straight away to say thait yes, it was for sale but I just needed to locate it first. I have an accurate record of my sales and was 99% certain that I hadn’t sold this painting. Rather embarrassingly though, after searching high and low, I could find it and had no choice but to ‘fess up! I painted this view back

I asked whether it was this particular view, something similar or a view of Brighton that he was looking for. Depending on the view and any time pressures, I suggested that I may be able to paint something to meet his requirements on a ‘no commitment to buy’ basis.

It turns out that this gentleman used to live in the area and had a lot of memories of the place. He was particularly after something that featured Palmeira Square. The only other criteria were that it had to be a watercolour and would not exceed an unframed width of 25 inches.

Palmeira Square is about five minutes walk from where I live. I knew that I had quite a few photos that I’d taken of the square, with the intention of painting it one day, so set about going through my archives.

I eventually managed to find a view that I could visualise painting – even if I wasn’t quite sure how!

Reference photo of Palmeira Gardens

I sent this over for consideration and it got a thumbs-up, with the proviso that I should aim to omit any people, and the bus! What followed was brief exchange about different sizes and costs, as well as agreeing that anything I did would be my interpretation rather than a photo-realistic representation.

What I particularly liked about this image was the tonal range and the colour saturation. Although it’s quite contre-jour, if features some vivid, almost acid greens and some deep, rich darks that combined to give a wonderful sense of a bright afternoon. I also saw the potential for lots of different edges – some soft and diffused, some much more crisp and defined, as well as the opportunity for lots of different brushstrokes too.

Here’s how I got on:

Palmeira Gardens, Hove

It’s always a relief when you’re painting something on behalf of someone else when you can genuinely say that you are also pleased with the results! This final image was sent over, along with the two images below showing how it looked mounted and framed.

These two images are obviously far from studio quality but they were only intended to give an impression of how the painting looked from a distance. It’s always slightly nerve-wracking when you do the grand reveal as you really have no idea what the response might be!

It was to my delight then when I got a positive email in response:

Wow! It looks great. It’s even better than I’d anticipated and is perfect for what I had in mind.

Happy recipient

This painting was sent mounted and arrived safely a few days ago. It was a painting that, after having spent a few days living with it before making some final adjustments, looked better in the flesh than in photographs. All the more pleasing then to get the following endorsement when the painting arrived:

Absolutely delighted with it. My girlfriend described it as “beautiful”. It is a very lovely piece. Extremely well done and, once again, many thanks.

Happy recipient

After a decidedly embarrassing start – with me losing a painting! I was really pleased to be able to provide, in my opinion, a much better painting that I hope will serve as a happy reminder of time spent living here for a long time to come.

Alvaro Castagnet online workshop

My online workshop with Alvaro Castagnet is this Saturday from 10am-1pm GMT. When I first mentioned that I’d booked this workshop, I said that I hoped to be able to do a ‘pre-workshop’ take on the subject we’ll be working from on Saturday, the plan being that I can do a before and after workshop comparison.

Here’s the reference photo that has been supplied in advance which we’ll be working from in some shape or form:

Alvaro Castagnet workshop reference photo

And here’s my quick take on this view. It took me quite a while a sketch this out which was frustrating. Most of it was fine but I really struggled to get the car figured out! Based on this experience, I could waste half the workshop just trying to figure out the drawing!

My first, untutored attempt!

You’ll see that I’m made some minor adjustments to the original photo, mainly with the addition of some figures to add a little more interest. I was quite pleased with how some of this turned out, particularly the simplification of some of the shapes and the overall sense of light and shade across the painting.

I wasn’t sure whether I was going to get around to doing this or not but, having now done this, I’m really excited about Saturday’s workshop. All I need to do now is to figure out how to set up my easel and assorted paraphernalia within easy view of my computer! I look forward, with a degree of nervous trepidation, to sharing my experience with you next week!

Thoughts on A watercolour commission

27 thoughts on “A watercolour commission”

  1. I agree that misplacing that original painting was a happy accident. Your second painting is superior in my opinion. It is a lovely interpretation.

    If you ever get the chance I highly recommend a workshop with Ian Stewart. He is great for cars and people as well as perspective with buildings and such. Also Thomas Schaller. Both have moved from architectural illustrator to professional watercolorist.

  2. Pingback: Alvaro Castagnet watercolour workshop

      1. Well done on your commission…it’s great when someone appreciates your art, especially when they buy too!

        I’m trying to imagine what Alvaro will produce from that scene, I guess the dark across the foreground will be much darker than in your pre-workshop painting, the dark will cross the car and go up in to the arched feature, he’ll be drawn to the blue of the shop in the mid-ground and will love the red circular sign above the car on the left…he too will add more figures, especially in the foreground just as you have (probably with some pure colour highlights to pick them out of the shadow), and the car’s lights will be just as you have done, perhaps a stronger, more pure red.

        I think you’ll be proved right that it’s after the workshop that the learning will really kick in, from what I’ve seen Alvaro paints quickly so it will be a challenge to watch and paint at the same time!

        Whatever happens, I can’t wait to see the result!

        1. Hi Ray and I think you’re predictions on what Alvaro will do with this are pretty accurate! This is why I wanted to paint this version before the workshop and without necessarily trying to anticipate everything we’ll be doing on Saturday.

          This will be my first ever online workshop so I’m really intrigued. Really hope that I can keep up (am already figuring out that I may need to have a hair dryer close by to speed a few bits up and maybe recover some lost time!

  3. Congratulations! The commissioned piece is totally gorgeous. As beautiful as it is on your photo, I could only imagine how nice the original is.

    I am glad to see you are going strong in this pandemic world we have. It has been tough for me to keep up my enthusiam. Not being able to travel seems to be squashing my creative urges.

    Thanks for posting; your work and thoughts always brighten my day. Hang in there and be safe, my friend.

    1. Hi Tim and thanks so much for this. There’s no getting away from it is there. This year has been a shocker! I’m fortunate in many ways because although I prefer to lean on my own personal travel experiences, I have also been able to live vicariously through other peoples photos and use them as a source of inspiration for my own paintings.
      I can see that this isn’t an option for you as the photographer!
      I’m fast reaching the point now where I can’t wait to say goodbye to 2020 – and to look forward with a little be more hope and optimism for 2021! I think it’s important for us all to be kind to ourselves and not beat ourselves up for what we have or haven’t done this year. I’m sure your creative urges will flourish again soon!
      Take good care Tim, all best wishes, John

      1. Thank you John for your words of support and encouragement. We are all in this together, we should count ourselves lucky that we are still here. Hopefully, by this time next year, we will be talking about our favorite places we found inspiration from our travels. 🤞

        1. Fingers crossed indeed Tim! Who would have ever have thought that the opportunities to travel that we’d all come to take for granted would become so scarce! Here’s to more travels and more inspiration in 2021.

    1. Haha, I think that’s very unlikely Rob! I can guarantee you who will be quaking in their boots during the workshop and, as a clue, I’m 99% sure it won’t be Alvaro!

  4. Hi John
    Very nice commission watercolour and your first attempt at the AV is better than I have done! It these buildings on the right I find tricky as is the whole scene!
    Might see you on Saturday

    1. Hi Brian and many thanks for this. I’m going to try to sketch out in pencil two more versions in time for Saturday. For the past year now I’ve only done quarter sheets but have stretched out a half sheet as well as a quarter sheet in readiness! I hope it goes well for you on Saturday and look forward to hearing about how you get on!

        1. Thanks Brian. I saw recently that the workshop had sold out. As it’s online it’s not especially important but I wonder how many people may be participating? I’ll be sending you positive thoughts on Saturday!

          1. Hi John
            It was very enjoyable if a bit tricky
            I thought yours went well but I was disappointed with mine
            I may try again but maybe his brilliant style isn’t for me

          2. Hi Brian and thanks for this. There’s no doubting that painting under those conditions is quite tricky. I hope that while you may have been disappointed with your painting, you’re not disheartened! I still feel/hope that all of these experiences are feeding into a melting pot of how ‘I” want to paint and express myself rather than just me wanting to paint ‘like’ someone else. I suppose only time and a lot more painting will tell!

  5. Well I’m happy you lost the original painting as I prefer the one you painted next! I think you’ve painted this beautifully and I especially love the brighter foreground colours with the flowers and that lovely grass. It looks great framed so well done John.
    I was happy to sell a painting from my new Instagram page last week. It was a view of my village to a villager so didn’t even need posting. Always a thrill to have a nice sale.
    I do hope you have a brilliant workshop with Alvaro…how exciting and will look forward to hearing all about it. Your practise piece looks really good!
    Stay safe, and warm😄

    1. Hi Carole and thanks so much for this – glad you liked this painting more than the first one! Congratulations too on your Instagram sale, really good news – is your instagram account @carolerogersart ? Fingers crossed I’ll have happy tidings to report about the workshop next week!

      1. Hi again John,
        Yes my Instagram page is…. carolerogersart…. I do hope you have a look. I was just reading an artist’s blog that was saying how social media can pressure people to keep posting…to keep up. This is too true I think so I will try not to pressure myself. 😄 Happy painting and my fingers will be crossed for Saturday. I’m sure it will be just amazing and I don’t think you’re expecting too much on the day, from what I gathered….it’s the future learning that will come from that that will be so valuable…woohoo!

        1. Thanks Carole, am now following you on Instagram and yes, I can vouch for social media channels being a double edged sword! Great in some ways but have the potential to become all consuming! Have sometimes had to have a word with myself when I find that I’m spending more time on social media than I am on my painting! I sometimes (on those occasions when I’m feeling at a bit of a low ebb) take a complete break. I’m sure you’ll find the right balance for you!

  6. Congratulations! Keep in mind that ‘slumps’ are temporary! I’ll let you savor your success and not offer any critique! Hope you enjoy your session with Alvaro. Want to bet that the blue building front becomes red? Look forward to seeing what you both do with it! Don’t be discouraged if your painting in the ‘class’ doesn’t come out well; I usually did NOT paint well in such a class even though I learned things. I finally realized that though I took a class from someone I admired, when under the immediate influence, I was trying too hard to imitate something that really was not my own…so don’t be discouraged!

    1. Hi Margery and thanks for this. In my head, I’m already mentally preparing myself for some good learnings but a disappointing outcome for my paint-a-long workshop piece. I’m pinning all my hopes the third version of this view, which I’ll do sometime after the workshop in my own time! All the best Margery – John

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