Plein air painting with Brighton Painting Group

Brighton Painting Group

Saturday 15th January saw the first monthly meeting of the fledgeling Brighton Painting Group. The location for this month’s gathering was Pavilion Gardens in the heart of Brighton. It’s a great location and rich with potential subjects, including the city’s iconic and architecturally bonkers Royal Pavilion.

I wasn’t sure whether I was going to be able to attend on Saturday and, loathe as I was to miss out completely, I decided to paint a view whether I went or not!

To promote the event, the group’s organiser, Elliot Roworth, had shared a photograph that he’d taken that struck a chord with me and I thought would make a decent painting:

Watercolour painting of the South Gate at Brighton's Pavilion Gardens by artist John Haywood
The South Gate, Pavilion Gardens, Brighton

I quite enjoyed painting this, but I think this could also be because I was actually just enjoying the activity of painting! I tried to pay particular attention to the greens in advance of my imminent ‘Using Green in Watercolour’ course with Paul Talbot Greaves.

When Saturday came around, it turned out that I was able to attend, although in retrospect, it might have been better if I hadn’t!

The day was particularly flat light-wise so I knew that I was going to struggle a little! My mood wasn’t helped when I found out that I only had a couple of per cent of charge on my phone, which meant that I couldn’t document my day, and nor could I use my phone to help me compose my painting!

Anyway, after meeting up at 10am at the cafe in the park, we all dispersed to find our views. I had in mind a particular view of the ornate ‘India Gate’ entrance to Pavilion Gardens. Here’s are a couple of images to give you a sense of the view, and how I got on:

This painting actually started off okay and I felt it was working quite well. That was until the sun poked its head out and gave me a glimpse of just how dramatic a view it could really be!

At this point, I tried to radically change the painting and introduced a ridiculous shadow. It’s not the shadow you see in these images because, no sooner had I applied this dark shadow, I realised that it was totally out of kilter with everything that I’d done so far. At this point, my painting began to fall apart a little!

First up I had to rinse off the shadow wash that I’d applied (which was a preposterous shade of purple!) but it also entailed going over other areas of the painting too and it all started to get very muddy and overworked.

It also meant that my paper became absolutely saturated and, what with it being freezing cold in January, it took an age for it to dry out. By this time I was quite disappointed and frustrated with the direction (or rather the lack of direction) that I’d gone in.

While the painting didn’t live up to my expectations, the activity of drawing and painting on location certainly did. It’s so different to painting in the comfort of a studio or your home and, while there’s no doubt about it being challenging, it’s also incredibly invigorating too.

What was great was a little bit of companionship. Like many painters, I spend most of my time painting on my own, so it’s a treat to every now and then meet up with other painters. It’s also particularly interesting to see, from broadly the same location and brief, how people choose their subjects and how they interpret them.

Here’re are some images that were subsequently shared from the day that I hope give a flavour:

It was a great experience although by the end, I was chilled to the bone! The group meets up on the second Saturday of every month so I’m really hoping that I’ll be able to join again on Saturday 12 February. The location hasn’t been decided yet so if anyone knows Brighton, and has any bright ideas, please do let me know and I’ll suggest them!

Using Green in Watercolour – a course with Paul Talbot Greaves

My course with Paul Talbot Greaves, Using Green in Watercolour is due to start this Friday. I’m delighted to say that Paul has given me permission to write about my experiences of the course here, but I won’t be sharing any of Paul’s dedicated resources.

To help us prepare, we’ve already been given a list of the pigments that Paul will be using throughout the course. These are all from the Winsor and Newton Professional range:

  • Winsor lemon
  • Cadmium yellow pale (or cad yellow)
  • Yellow ochre
  • Burnt sienna
  • Cadmium scarlet
  • Cadmium red
  • Alizarin crimson
  • Winsor violet
  • French ultramarine
  • Cerulean blue
  • Winsor blue green shade
  • Viridian
  • Hookers Green
  • Permanent sap green
  • Neutral tint

This sent me running to my paint supplies as I knew there were some colours in this list that I don’t normally use, but which I hoped might be somewhere in my jumble of paints! I should point out that Paul is happy for people to use alternatives, but for people that wish to follow his demonstrations and theories more closely, it will most likely be helpful to use the same palette.

The paint hoard!!

I was pleased to find that I have all but three of the recommended colours. Of the three, Winsor Lemon, Hookers Green and Cadmium Scarlet, I’ve managed to order the first two, and am hoping that Paul will be able to suggest an alternative or a workaround for Cadmium Scarlet (any suggestions on this are most welcome!)

Hopefully, I’ve got enough to start the course though and I’ve already got a few bits of paper stretched up in eager anticipation.

New website

As I hurtle through my New Year Resolutions another one that I’ve made some early progress on is a new website. There’ll be much more news on this in future posts and it’s likely to mean some changes that I’ll need to make you aware of but, from the discussions that I’ve had so far, I’m really excited about having a new look, feel and direction.

After many happy years with Brushes with Watercolour in its current guise, the new website is going to feel a little like moving to a new house! While I’ll be sad to leave this one after so many years and happy memories, I’m also really looking forward to being able to invite you round to see my new home!

Thoughts on Plein air painting with Brighton Painting Group

4 thoughts on “Plein air painting with Brighton Painting Group”

  1. You’ve got well over £1000s worth of paint there… Surely you don’t need any more!
    Well done to get yourself outside in such difficult conditions and don’t be so self-critical about what you produced – let me do that for you: Good effort. Proportions possibly a little squashed. You also missed out on an opportunity to use your greens on that roof-onion.
    Thanks for the photo record of what went on. I wish there was something like that in my neck of the woods – though I’ve never been brave enough to paint out of doors – certainly not in January. Keep up the good work!!

    1. Hi Rob, apologies for such a tardy response to this comment! I’ve never actually totted up the value of the paints but seeing your estimate certainly made me think I need either slow down with my buying or speed up with my painting! I really ought to have a paint sale as there are a lot of paint colours that I’ve accumulated that I never use. Thanks too for the comments on the plein air effort. Painting on location is certainly a leveller. I’m sure it’s good to do it, but I’d like to feel a little happier about it in the future! I feel fortunate that this group has started up as I doubt you’d find me painting outdoors at the beginning of January otherwise!

  2. Hi John,
    Well that looked fun…how lovely to have other painters around you. It is something I really miss since our Art Club closed down during the first lockdown, and has now disappeared totally. I could find others, but it would involve being in the City which I wouldn’t want either.
    Anyhow I do like your new paintings, I like the splash of green on your South Gate one particularly, and I love the wet in wet and soft edges in the India Gate one but would have loved a touch of the dome (is that what it’s called)? colour on the ground too.
    You have amassed quite a collection of paints there…I have too but my collection looks quite modest in comparison!😁
    I’ll be most interested in how the Paul Talbot Greaves workshop goes….if I remember correctly he is quite prodigious with his use of greens….what fun!
    Well happy painting and keep safe,
    Warm wishes,

    1. Thanks so much for this Carole and yes, the new painting group is proving to be great fun and a really nice way of meeting some other artists (but the main attraction is that it’s motivating me to actually get out and paint – even though I find it really challenging!)
      My paint collection has been amassed over many years. It’s mainly because I tend to buy everything on ebay where people are often selling a collection of paints off and only some of them are my regular pigments, so I’ve ended up with a bit of mishmash (I’ve got more tubes of Cad Yellow than I think I’ll ever get through!).
      My painting workshop starts tomorrow so I’ll hopefully have something to share or say about it next week! Thanks so much Carole!

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