Glass half empty watercolour paintings

I seem to be experiencing a period of glass half emptiness when it comes to my paintings! By nature, I think I’m usually ‘glass half full’, but not at the moment!

This somewhat downbeat demeanour is accompanied by a distinct lack of interest in writing about my painting too… because this means looking at them and thinking about them… which I really don’t want to do!

Here are some of the paintings that have led to this slight malaise, so you can judge for yourself, followed by a few summary notes on each one:

Rainy days – some okay bits. Looks wet. overworked. Disappointed with the taxi.

Barcelona taxi – quite like the central building and the right hand side of the painting. Another disappointing taxi and, overall, it doesn’t do much to excite me. I did think about just throwing caution to the wind and adding some figures for interest in the foreground, but I opted to just move on instead.

A monochrome Brighton – I had a vision in my mind’s eye about how this might look. This painting bear’s no resemblance to that vision! I think this does have some merit, and there’s some life and movement to it, but annoyed about the long line of heads that break at all the same height right across the painting!

Out of Africa – This view is based on a scene in a short film that I saw recently. I really liked this at first, but my feelings towards it soon waned! I don’t think that its particularly poor, maybe more of a case that it’s bit thin subject wise.

Barcelona square – this was done pretty quickly on a quarter sheet, again using mainly large brushes until I got onto the figures.

Glass half full watercolour paintings

This isn’t to say that there’s no room for any hope at the moment. Amidst this smattering of paintings, there are also a few that I’m moderately pleased with:

The Paris House (le pub) in Hove

This painting is of the Paris House pub in Hove. It’s tiny inside, which makes it all the more surprising that it’s a wonderful live music venue. The pub’s motto is:

“Full of character; full of characters.”

The Paris House, Le Pub

And it really does live up to this! I can highly recommend it should you ever be in the vicinity. Aside from its wonderfulness as a pub, it’s also the most amazing building. This is close to where I live so I often walk past it and have often stopped to take pictures of it, so it was about time that I tried to paint it!

I was quite pleased with a lot of this, though I feel disappointed that I also overworked some areas and, in doing so, completely ruined some elements – most noticeably to my eye being the perspective on the dome on top of the building. It’s a half imperial sheet painting and it felt good to be painting with my largest brushes for much of it.


I’d been scanning the photos from our most recent trip to Barcelona and spotted one that I felt I might be able to make something of. Sadly, as I took the photo on my camera, rather than on my phone, I don’t have a record of the exact location… but if anyone thinks that they recognise it, please do let me know!

A table in the sun, Barcelona

This was another half sheet, again painted relatively quickly and freely with my larger brushes.

As with a few of these paintings shown here, I’m disappointed that even after my workshop with Alvaro Castagnet, I’m still allowing myself to paint too darkly too quickly. It would appear that some habits are particularly difficult to break!

That aside, I think there’s something to feel more optimistic about in this effort than in many of these paintings!

Thoughts on Glass half empty watercolour paintings

18 thoughts on “Glass half empty watercolour paintings”

  1. Barbara Halsall

    I read this following your Alvaro blog and it was so interesting as I have just been on an Herman Pekel course. I found your comments so relevant.
    The glass half empty is a disappointment after so much enthusiasm and I know where you are coming from. I am adjusting to all that information overload , clarifying and incorporating into the knowledge and experience I have picked up over the years and full of enthusiasm to move ever onwards and upwards. Your work has always appealed to me and your work ethic . Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your blog

    1. Hi Barbara and thanks so much for this! I’m envious of your experience with Herman, I really admire his approach and have a number of his DVDs and he comes across as a great person as well as a painter! Yes, I think we’re both in similar territory – the post workshop lull when you’re full of enthusiasm and desperate to try to put everything you’ve learnt into action. Let’s try to be kind to ourselves and allow ourselves a little more time to let it all soak in before expecting to see instant results in our paintings! Great to know that I’m not alone Barbara, and many thanks for your comments, they’re much appreciated!

  2. To many workshops can do that too. You can be totally become out of focus while you like to many styles. I think you can paint with the techniques you learned from Wesson, Hilder, Seago and Castagnet and picking out the best pieces, you have skills enough to make stunning work. But you have to get them straighten out! write down for yourself what you want in a painting. But how nice the paintings are in this post. Every watercolour artist will recognise the style from AC. And you want it being the style of John Haywood!

    1. Hi Edo and thanks for this. I appreciate your honesty and your candour. You’re quite right too! What’s come to excite me most in my painting definitely leans more towards AC than, say Rowland Hilder (whose work I still love!) but I still need to find my own voice and expression. I think I’m within touching distance, but for sure the recent workshop with AC has been a diversion (albeit a great and wonderful one!). I’m already feeling much more optimistic after this little exchange! Thanks so much for your support and encouragement Edo, I really appreciate it!

        1. Yes Edo, I’m familiar with Oliver Pyle and I recognise a similarity in your aesthetic! I’ll certainly check out the video you’ve suggested. Many thanks Edo!

          1. Oliver and I didn’t knew each other 30 years back, but we both are inspired by Alwyn Crawshaw in the late 80’s. From there we liked the English landscape painters. But Olivers way of painting is much finer and more detailed. And colorful. I am more attracted to the gra meadows of Holland.

          2. Our surroundings and environment are so important aren’t they! I’ve lived in cities for most of my life now so while I love landscapes, I don’t spend much time ‘in the landscape’ compared to the time I spend in urban environments. My ideal would be to have a nice balance (if only I could afford a place in the country as well as the city!)

  3. John The same as most of us, you are looking for improvement on every painting. What you are unhappy with would bring me great joy! However, I understand totally the overworking that is so easy to do with watercolor. I did that last week on a portrait that I was pretty happy about ..until I was not

    1. Thanks so much for this salient reminder! If we’re committed, then we have to be in it for the long haul – and our progress is better judged over time than from one effort to the next! Sorry to hear about your recent over working – it’s so easily done and so hard to resist!

  4. Hi John, hope you don’t mind me commenting on your paintings….

    Overall, I agree with Patricia, there’s lots to like in your paintings.

    Rainy Days…I prefer this painting cropped square, losing much of the upper part of the painting allowing the taxi to dominate. And yes, as Warren says, just add some darks at the rear end of the taxi! I think that’d make it a great painting.

    Barcelona taxi…hmmm, I agree with you, move on! The perspective doesn’t work for me, seems a bit odd.

    Monochrome Brighton…I like this, the touches of red across the painting really bring it to life. The “line of heads” is okay for me!

    Out of Africa…I like this one too, I’d have it on my wall anytime. The handling of the large tree is spot on, brilliant use of greens. And the three “huts” in the middle ground are masterful.

    Barcelona Square…I think Alvaro would love this! Perhaps the buildings needed a bit more variety, the figures though look great.

    Paris House…when I first looked at this the dome and some of the foreground shadow were off the screen and thought it an excellent painting; but bringing in the dome seemed to dull down the whole painting. So for me it’s not the perspective, but what looks to be some “opaqueness” in the dome that detracts. And I suggest the bottom shadow is too big and dominant.

    A table in the sun, Barcelona…I’d just cut off a little of the dull left side up to the tree and be really pleased with the result. Another one Alvaro would love.

    1. Hi Ray and many thanks for this, much appreciated! Reading your comments makes me think that there’s a lot more to be encouraged by than I’d previously thought (or rather allowed myself to think about!) You’re definitely right about that Dome! I ended up make a right pig’s ear of it! I’m likely to try painting this scene again as its such a great building. Thanks so much Ray!

  5. Hi John, I’m experiencing the same feelings myself but as you’ve shared your thoughts and some pretty good ‘bad’ paintings I think it must just be that as artists we are our worst critics.
    Your first taxi just seems to be missing a rear end, it needs a dark area between it and the reflection. I think your comments on the other are spot on so at least you know whats going wrong. I guess we get to see our failures along with our successes.

    Alvaro said you had talent so you should let that compliment carry you through the summer!
    Happy painting

    1. Hi Warren and thanks so much for this. Sorry to hear you’re in a similar position. Even though I know it’s all part and parcel of painting/ applying yourself to just about any form of activity, and that it will most likely pass… it still feels a bit miserable and dispiriting doesn’t it! I must confess that I do take some comfort from Alvaro’s comments and hope that a string of hits is just around the corner – for both of us!

  6. Patricia Robinson

    Oh, John! Lots of is would be chuffed to bits to paint the pictures which leave you half empty! Isn’t the rule that we learn from the almost masterpieces, because real masterpieces are rare? Be kind to yourself! I love looking at your work!

    1. Hi Patricia and thanks so much for this, which is really kind of you and much appreciated! I think you’re right and that the wisdom is that we learn more from our failures than our successes! I’m hopeful that this current run of form could be the harbinger of much greater things to come! (That’s certainly what I’m keeping my fingers crossed for!)

I'd love to hear any thoughts you have about this

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