Watercolour painting of frost covered fields near the village of Clayton, East Sussex, by artist John Haywood

A frosty morning painting and a watercolour challenge

Frosty Morning painting

First up this week is a new half-sheet painting of a frosty morning near the village of Clayton, not far from Brighton.

I’d passed by this area in the car on a cold Saturday morning back in January but didn’t have time to stop. As the forecast was for more of the same on the following Sunday, I made of point of going back again, with the excuse of taking the dog for a walk so I could park the car and go for a little exploration. It was such a lovely morning, the sun was low, and the light was delicious. The fields were covered with a light frost and a nice crunch underfoot.

Frosty morning near Clayton, Sussex

I didn’t appreciate when I selected this image quite how difficult it was going to be to try to convey the frosted grass! I found it surprisingly difficult and had to do quite a few different colour tests, and even then found myself resorting to a few too many dry brush strokes of virtually neat Chinese white at the end to get my point across!

Overall though, I was quite pleased with how this turned out.

A Watercolour Challenge from Jem Bowden

Some of you may recall that back in the middle of December, I posted some information about a watercolour challenge from Jem Bowden. The deadline for submissions for this challenge was the end of February and, ever since this first effort back in December, I’d had it in mind to try again as I hoped that I could do better:

Watercolour challenge 1

With the deadline looming, I taped up a half sheet and set about this afresh!

One significant difference this time was that I didn’t try to keep up with Jem as he painted in his YouTube video demonstration:

I was saved, and not for the first time, by a little watercolour challenge by the great Jem Bowden. Jem recently posted a YouTube video demonstration of a backlit landscape scene.

Trying to keep up with the speed at which Jem paints resulted in far too many wet onto-wet accidents with my first effort so the second time around, I tried to break the painting up into some manageable chunks that allowed the painting to dry in some areas whilst I also caught my breath!

Watercolour challenge 2

I was much happier with this second version, in which I felt the sky had much more definition to it. Also, by leaving the sky to dry fully before starting the tree, I didn’t get some of the more unsightly bleeds and felt that I was able to treat it altogether more sensitively.

I think the ploughed furrows with reflecting puddles became a little overworked, but I didn’t resort to using any white paint to try to rescue anything as I had in my first attempt.

It felt good to be able to submit this second version and I look forward to seeing how others got on with this challenge and, fingers crossed, to receiving some feedback from Jem!


Almost as soon as I published this post, I received Jem’s regular email that contained everyone else’s paintings along with his considered critiques. Here’s what Jem had to say about my painting:

“A strong contender in many ways. The markmaking/brushwork and control of medium in general is apparent, and largely effective. The nice glow in the sky, and suggestion of sun getting low, makes me want to see the view from that house as the sun sets! A good suggestion of depth with the soft distant hillside, along with apparent elevation of the building help create this. There are nice touches of soft and hard edges working in collaboration throughout the scene.  The tree is well observed (cannot overstate the importance of this always, but especially in such a major feature of the composition) and features some deft, controlled brushwork, and subtle changes in tone, colour, edge, etc as a consequence. Perhaps one improvement could be in the foreground, which I think could benefit from a bit more variation. Maybe the puddles, ruts, and use of the different colours could be more deliberately/carefully designed and placed, in order to direct attention and interest around the area more particularly. Without that, this area has apparently become a little bit overworked (a criticism – like quite a few throughout these crits – that I would also direct at my own effort!)

I was pretty pleased with this, naturally, because it is broadly very positive, but more so because the main criticism that Jem had was the same that I’d also identified – that of an overworked foreground!

If you’d like to see everyone else’s paintings and read more of Jem’s critiques, you can see them all in this blog post.

I hope that Jem will pose another one of his challenges some time in the future, as I do really enjoy them!

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