Vaccination watercolour paintings

I’m delighted to report that I had the first dose of my AstraZeneca Covid vaccination last Friday!

I’m less delighted to report that, as has been the case for some others too, the vaccine had quite a destabilising impact on my equilibrium! I was pretty much laid up for the entire weekend.

I’m fine again now, but the knock on was that I didn’t get as much brush time in as I’ve become accustomed to!

For the painting that I did do, I fear it may have revealed another little known side-effect of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Now this isn’t scientifically proven – yet – but I can’t help wondering if the vaccine doesn’t have a rather detrimental effect on people’s ability to paint?

First up is an effort that I started off with incredibly high hopes for! The view is of Admiralty Arch in central London looking from the Trafalgar Square side through the arches along The Mall. (Co-incidentally, for later in this post, just through those arches about 150 metres or so, you’ll find the Mall Galleries, where the RI for Painters in Watercolour and the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition present their annual exhibitions.)

Back to this painting though! I had a plan in mind but it became such a struggle, to the point where I abandoned it when it was predominantly a cool grey mess, only to decide to revisit it again in an effort to salvage at least something from it!

I warmed it up a bit, strengthened some of the darks, did a bit of work on the figures and dry brushed an indication of some architectural details and then felt a little bit happier to walk away from it.

Admiralty Arch, London

At this point, I was totally convinced that my vaccination jab had robbed me of any ability to paint so went back to bed!

I rallied slightly to make a stab at a view of Paris that I’ve painted before back in 2017 – that somehow drew my attention again. I didn’t refer back to the paintings I did in 2017 before starting this version but I felt I had a strong memory of them, especially as I remember selling one of them that same year when I took part in a local art fair.

Red blankets (2), Paris

While there are some moments of this I’m okay with, they’re few and far between. That main figure has a ominous looming presence about it, as if its about to attack the people sat at the tables! It should also have been better balanced on the right hand side, where the image sort of drifts away, but I’d rather given up caring half way through on this one!

I’m still frustrated to think that this painting might represent the sum total of my development as a painter since 2017!

In my vaccine addled state, this was just yet more evidence to support my case of this previously unknown side-effect – so I went back to bed again.

For no other reason than sheer frustration and stubbornness, I decided to return to a painting that I’d started some weeks ago. As I had been disappointed with this ‘start of a painting’, it’s just been lying around taunting me!

The view is of Shoreham Harbour, not far from where I live:

The first wash and already disappointed!

I wasn’t really happy with the this first wash, in particular the reflections of the sky in the water, which is why I’d left it alone for a few weeks. I wasn’t sure whether to go over these washes again or not, but on picking this up again I knew that I wanted to paint the middle section and main focal points as quickly and loosely as possible. In a way, I just wanted to have done with it so I could tape up a new piece of paper!

This is how it turned out:

Shoreham Harbour

I didn’t re-touch any of the previous washes aside from adding in the main focal point and reflections and I was surprised that it turned out sort of ok, but still not so ok as to disprove my ‘AstraZeneca robbed me of my ability to paint’ theory!

I’m pleased to be able say that after a few days of enforced rest, I’m now feeling much better.

I’m still not convinced however that I’m totally recovered on the painting front! As I was feeling pretty frustrated with these recent paintings, I followed along with a quick 30-40 minute demo from Alvaro Castagnet that I found on YouTube. I won’t link to it because someone had basically video-d one of his zoom demos and had posted it to YouTube which I do feel a little awkward about! If you really want to hunt it down, it’s not difficult to find!

Figures on the shore (after Alvaro Castagnet)

It was a simple coastal landscape scene and it was fun way to while away some time and to keep my brushes going!

Only time will tell whether my painting will ever make a full recovery. In the meantime, do let me know if you have any similar side effects on your paintings after receiving your vaccine!

The anticipation of not knowing

There’s a wonderfully delicious point in time between submitting an entry to a competition or exhibition and receiving a decision. It’s a time of hopeful possibilities! I recently enjoyed two weeks of this delicious hopefulness after submitting some entries to the annual Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour 2021 exhibition!

Unfortunately, my hopefulness was dashed upon the rocks of disappointment last Friday when I received notification, yet again, that none of my works had been selected:

I’ve actually lost count of the number of times I’ve received rejection letters like this! I suppose that in itself is progress of a kind (either that or just a sign of my increasing senility!)

This year, I decided to push the boat out and submit four images, which I think is the most I’ve ever entered for the RI exhibition:

Of these, ‘winter light’ shown top left was the one that I held out the highest hopes for, followed by ‘the absence of friends’ shown top right. ‘Mum’s kitchen window’, bottom left was always going to be a long shot (by long shot, I mean an even longer shot than any of the others!) and finally, bottom right ‘Barcelona street corner’ I submitted because I really enjoyed painting it!

While these paintings didn’t make the RI grade, I’m still pleased with them and I think three of them in particular represent what could be considered a ‘high water mark’ in my painting. Making these annual submissions does make you reflect year on year your progress and I certainly feel that my painting has progressed considerably over the past few years – even thought it often doesn’t feel like it!

I daresay I’ll be taking my chances again next year and, once again, will be hoping that the delightful sense of possibility may have a different outcome!

Thoughts on Vaccination watercolour paintings

13 thoughts on “Vaccination watercolour paintings”

  1. You’re most welcome. I’d say that one’s more likely to get into a gallery space as it’s quite unusual.

    I actually just did a post today poking fun at the art world and it’s love of modern art as part of poetry month. You might like it 😊 However, I have a lot of love for the art world too.

    Good luck with your paintings, John! ☀️

  2. I love your watercolours, you’ve mastered the technique, for sure! My favourite was actually the one of the kitchen sink, such an unusual subject but so well rendered and awash with light. Bravo ☀️

    1. Thanks so much for your kind and generous comments! I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered the technique yet but I’m enjoying trying! The kitchen sink one is particularly poignant as, in many ways it’s a reminder of my mum and her home – so I’m especially pleased you like that one! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment!

  3. I don’t know what you’re talking about, John! Four paintings in the last week!! I’m lucky if I manage one every four weeks – with or without a vaccination. I’ve just looked back and it seems I was painting a very serious-looking self-portrait at the time of my vaccination in January (and it turned out quite nice.) Mind you I didn’t have any other side-effects either but it wasn’t the Oxford variety. Sorry to hear you’ve been laid up and sorry to hear you don’t like what you’ve produced; they look all right to me if not your absolute best; the boats and the beach are particularly acceptable. Also sad to hear about your latest rejection. I’ve never been rejected on headed note-paper – probably because I’ve never applied to anyone wityh headed notepaper. I like to think the people who decide these things probably know as much/little as you do about what’s good and what’s not. Of course, this approach does mean I’ll lie on my death-bed wondering what might have been…

    1. Thanks Rob but you achieve great things in your paintings that I have neither the skill or patience to do!! I have to try to rattle through them in the hope that, with the law of averages, one or two of them might be okay! Thanks to for the commiserations on the latest rejections. It all helps to bolster my hard done by “Is it any wonder I’m the way I am when the whole world’s against me?” demeanour. I also wouldn’t mind if it was a decent bit of heavily embossed letterhead paper either! Much better than I message that I actually have to log onto the Mall Galleries site just to see it! Ah well, there’s always next year!

      1. I’m firmly with Brian of brianswatercolours on this one, John: it’s not in their interests to accept the best paintings because then we’d all agree with them and they would have lost their aura of being able to recognise Great Art in what to us appears like a load of old…. Of course no one dares to be the first to say that the art-world emperor is totally starkers! (p.s. You’d better either delete this comment from your blog or not bother entering next year!)

        1. I’d love to agree with you wholeheartedly Rob – (and if we were talking about the RWS that holds its exhibitions at it’s gallery on Bankside, I’d certainly be inclined to agree with you!). This Royal Institute one though, from what I’ve seen them exhibit in recent years, does look as if one day, I might just have a chance! Obviously, were I to be selected I’d have to stop painting immediately as it would be a obvious sign that I’ve totally lost my way!

  4. Hi John
    Glad to hear you have had the jab and now recovered
    I think the painting malaise might be as mine is, that I have painted so much for a year that I am struggling with subjects that I want to paint as we havent been going anywhere!
    Not getting selected by the Mall G is just their error and lack of foresight! I liked your submissions a lot and I know when we see the accepted ones that quirky will be the theme! Sky arts landscapes painter seems similar in their selections too although they wouldn’t let me enter in 2020 because I was over 70. Outrageous!
    You be full back to painting soon and we will also be able to travel and paint too!

    1. Hi Brian – thanks for this and I must confess to being surprised at the Sky Arts Landscape Painter of the Years outright ageism! I completely know what you mean about missing sujbect matter. I keep on trawling through years and years of photos over and over again in the hope of seeing something new! I’ve actually taken to saving photos I like that I see on Pinterest or Facebook etc so that I’ve got a steady supply to work from – even if I end up not using them or sharing them if I can’t get permission from the copyright holders – at least it’s helping keep my brushes and enthusiasm going. It will be great to be able to travel again though – it’s going to feel like such a treat!

  5. Hi John,
    So glad you’ve had your jab. We both had the Pfizer one and had no reaction at all….it does feel good to have had it of course. Sadly it didn’t have any magical effect on my painting!
    I really like your Shoreham Harbour painting…your boats are really strong and they can be difficult to paint.
    Interesting to look back and see how far you’ve evolved in the last few years. I absolutely adore your Mum’s Kitchen Sink painting and imagine that holds a special place in your heart.
    Sorry you didn’t get in to the RI exhibition, but well done for entering….you must keep at it!
    Happy painting,
    Warm wishes

    1. Hi Carole and many thanks for this – really pleased you liked the Shoreham Harbour painting. Considering my frame of mind when I painted this (ie about to give up all hope!) it turned out better than I might have expected. Hope that you’re continuing to enjoy Andy Evansen’s guidance! (Still very jealous!)

  6. Well, John, I’m still here for awhile at least! I had my 2nd Phitzer(sp?) shot a week ago Tuesday. I came home after and immediately took a Tylenol as a precaution. I had no problems either time except feeling really tired and washed out! I did try to paint some, not at all successful, so I intentionally just kept adding paint and even added charcoal but blah! Then on Friday I had an operation for skin cancer just under my right eye and that has kept me occupied. I’m still tired from everything topped today with a mammogram and ultrasound, so am still tired! This too, but am still happy to still be alive at 90 and DRIVING!
    I liked best, your Alvaro shore scene. Guess I am tired of what we used to call ‘Tourist paintings’ in the gallery where I used to be. I especially like it when you include color!

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