Wonderful reactions at the Sussex Watercolour Society annual exhibition

I’m delighted to report that I enjoyed some wonderful reactions to my work at the Sussex Watercolour Society (SWS) exhibition that took place last weekend. This was the first time that I’ve exhibited with the society since receiving an invitation to become a member back in March this year. I was apprehensive about my watercolour paintings being seen side by side with, on this occasion, 19 other watercolour artists! When I’ve exhibited previously, my work has always been part of a more mixed media/mixed bag exhibition. I was concerned that seeing my work in a pure watercolour, or water-based exhibition might highlight more of my shortcomings than I’d ideally like – especially when there are some extremely renowned and well-established artists in the society!

The exhibition was only on for a short period of time. We had to set it up on Friday morning, before opening to the public at 2pm. There was a private view on Friday evening after which the exhibition was open from 11am-5pm on Saturday and Sunday. The exhibition coincided with the annual Artwave Festival that sees exhibitions and events take place in Lewes, Seaford, Newhaven, Peacehaven and the surrounding villages from the 3rd – 18th of September.

This meant that the SWS exhibition did benefit from some wider promotion. Unfortunately, the exhibition also coincided with the final weekend of the school summer holidays and, combined with the recent arrival of our puppy which meant that I wasn’t able to be present at the exhibition as much as I would have liked!

Each artist had an 8ft x 4ft board on which to display their work. Again, not having used the hanging system I was a little unsure about how it worked but I had been given some insights by the Chair of the Society, Sarah Mitchener so had a plan in mind! This was all the more important as we only had a few hours in which to get everything set up!

Here’s how my board looked just before the doors opened!

John Haywood's display of watercolour paintings as part of the 2022 Sussex Watercolour Society Exhibition at the Linklater Pavilion in Lewes.
My inaugural display as a member of the Sussex Watercolour Society

I was quite pleased with how this looked and pleased that I’d put some thought into it in advance. I was also pleased that I tend to present my work in quite standard-sized dimensions – which makes planning a hang like this so much easier than having lots of different sizes and shapes to juggle with!

Once this was hung, I was able to relax a little and spend some time admiring everyone else’s work. I regret now that I didn’t take more photographs of everyone else’s work to share here but in the midst of all the excitement, I was completely distracted! What I did really enjoy seeing was the tremendous range of approaches and of subject matter. There were so many different styles on display that it highlighted the rich versatility of the medium, which was wonderful to see. It was also great to meet and chat with the other members, particularly as it was the first time I’d met most of them. Everyone was incredibly welcoming, and also open to discussing their work too, which was a real treat for me.

What I also really enjoyed was the curiosity many of the other members demonstrated! How did I do this, or did I use masking fluid for that, what pigments do I prefer, what’s my favourite paper – it was such a joy to talk shop with people that are so enthusiastically engaged. It was a real eye opener into the wealth of expertise and experience that the society’s members has. I’m sure that I can only benefit from this, but also hope that I’ll be able to contribute a little of my own ‘expertise’ and ‘experience’ too!

With so much of one medium on display, and considering the wealth of talent on display, I didn’t have particularly high expectations in terms of sales. This was always about taking part and hoping that I might get a little more exposure and share my work with a wider audience. I was delighted then to sell a couple my smaller A4 framed works on the Saturday. Unfortunately I can’t find off-hand images of the two smaller paintings that I sold but they were the two portrait format paintings on the bottom row, both city / street scenes. Then, to cap it all and, to my great delight, I sold one of my recent larger paintings just as the exhibition was about to close on Sunday:

Watercolour painting of a view looking down St. Martins Lane, London towards the church of St.Martins in the Field, with The Coliseum, home to English National Opera on the left hand side.
Looking down St. Martins Lane, London towards the church of St.Martins in the Field, with The Coliseum, home to English National Opera on the left-hand side.

What was particularly pleasing is that I got to meet the buyer!! This is quite a rare occurrence these days but it’s something I enjoy so much! It’s so wonderful to understand what the connection to a painting might be. In this instance, the buyer was an opera singer who had not only performed at the Coliseum but had in her formative years worked at the box office there too so this painting brought back so many fond memories for her.

It was a great way to bring the weekend to a close. It also felt like a bit of vindication of the slightly apprehensive decision I made much earlier in the year, to try to say ‘yes’ to more things! And speaking of more things, my next exhibition is will be in fortnight’s time! I’ll share more details next week.

Thoughts on Wonderful reactions at the Sussex Watercolour Society annual exhibition

8 thoughts on “Wonderful reactions at the Sussex Watercolour Society annual exhibition”

  1. Well done, John. I’m sure you’d hold your own in any company so I hope it’s added to your confidence about your work. And congratulations on your sales, too; as you say, an exhibition like this is often more of an exhibition than a sale-room so to sell three is very pleasing. I notice you say the paintings were “water-based” rather than necessarily purely watercolour but, judging by your conversations, there must have been enough people who knew the difficulties and special opportunities we have with our chosen medium. It sounds like a great experience.
    As for the puppy; best of luck in bring it up; I hope it’s a small one, preferably a Jack Russell!

    1. Thanks so much Rob, the puppy is a cockatoo. Only 14 weeks old now but, looking at his size already, I fear there may be a rogue St.Bernards gene in him somewhere! The exhibition was a great experience thanks! I was too busy just focussing on getting my work ready to think what it might actually be like but I did enjoy it far more than I might have imagined. I used ‘water-based’ intentionally as some exhibitors were pure watercolourists, and some used acrylics, or water based pigments for monoprints too. It was particularly good to see work from artists whose work is much less about a figurative representation than it is an exploration of the medium and what’s possible with it. I doubt I could ever be quite as free and abstract, but there was lot’s of food for thought! Thanks so much Rob.

  2. Your display looks fantastic! I especially like the larger piece in the middle. The boat with the steps complement each other so well. I also really like that lovely expanse of foreground. Really impressive stuff.

    Sounds like you had a great time – and some sales too! Richly deserved.

    1. Hi Michele and thanks so much for this, really kind of you and I’m so pleased you like the painting of the boat! It’s quite rare for me to see a collection of my paintings together like that so it’s nice to see how they all hang together and hopefully look as if they’re all from the same hand! Really appreciate you taking the time to comment!

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

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