I received a new large-sized sword liner watercolour brush the other day and, in retrospect, think that this must have been in my mind when it came to selecting this week’s inspiration. Here’s a quick snap of my two pro arte sword liner brushes – the larger one being the newest addition. I’ve had the other one for so long now that the text has worn off so I can’t tell whether it’s small or a medium. They’re ideal for painting loose, fluid lines with a great variety of width.

First up was a local landscape view. I work not far from the small village of Falmer, just outside Brighton and it has a certain quintessential Englishness to it. Everything is grouped around an idyllic looking pond that is home to resident wildlife as well as being a regular stopping point for other birds on their migratory travels. I often visit for a little lunchtime walk but, certainly of late, the light has rarely been in my favour. Also, despite its undoubted picturesque-ness – I’ve struggled to envisage how I might paint it.

I also feel so unfamiliar with more landscape focused subjects that I was actually quite nervous about painting this scene! I was however quite excited about the prospect of tackling the sky!

Falmer Village, Sussex - a watercolour painting by John Haywood
Falmer Village, Sussex

This was painted in three or maybe four pretty distinct phases. First up was the sky which was done really quickly and energetically – then left alone. Second came the trees and church etc down to the water’s edge. The third was the pond and reflections, which again was painted in one hit, wet in wet, and then left alone apart from dabbing out some of the wash to represent the reflections of the clouds. I was really tempted to fiddle with the reflections some more as I noticed a few areas that I wasn’t quite happy with but, I think everything had dried out too much and I really risked ruining the overall effect with any meddling. Finally were the finishing elements such as the odd dry brushed ripple across the surface of the water and all of the branches on the left-hand side that enabled me to have a play with the new sword liner brush!

This was one of those ones that, rather fortuitously, came together quite quickly and, much to my surprise considering my early apprehension, quite pleasingly. It definitely made me want to do a few more ‘big sky’ paintings! If I was to tackle this again, I’d be sure to move the ivy-covered tree that’s slap bang in the middle of this composition. It was only after painting it that I realised quite how central this was and now I can’t stop thinking about it when I look at it!

Encouraged by this effort and with some time still on my hands, I decided to go for a scene that I photographed the other week in my local park. It was early in the morning and I needed to run an errand so took my camera along for company. The weather was cold and bright, a lovely early spring day. The light was streaming across the park and the grass was a lush emerald green with dark cast shadows and a hazy light in the distance. As I was taking a few pictures, a lady strolled into view and provided a valuable sense of interest and scale.

A Stroll in the Park - St Ann's Well Park, Brighton - a watercolour painting by John Haywood
A Stroll in the Park – St Ann’s Well Park, Brighton

I didn’t quite manage to capture everything that I’d hoped for in this painting and some of the colours are too muted and muddy. There are nevertheless some pleasing elements. The park does have a sense of depth, and a feeling of light flooding through. As a fleeting captured moment I think it’s ok – but it’s left me with a slight niggling sense of frustration that I can’t quite put my finger on!

Still, it was nice to ‘break in’ the new brush with some serious branch work and I really enjoyed painting with this new addition to the family.

12 thoughts on “New sword liner watercolour brush

  1. Did you paint the sky with the dagger? It’s terrific! I recently bought one of these brushes and have dabbled with it. It’s very interesting to see what it does. I hadn’t tried it on a sky…but perhaps I will. Thanks for sharing your process.

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    1. Hi Jean and thanks for your kind comments – much appreciated. The sky was done with a mop brush. I only used the sword liner for the branches and smaller tree trunks on these two paintings. I’m not sure how well suited they are for covering large areas such as skies as they don’t hold that much water (but it’s also not something I’ve ever tried!) Thanks again Jean

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      1. I know what you mean Jean, I think there’s a fine line between the many gimmicky brushes on the market, and having the right brush for the job (says the person with far too many brushes!)

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  2. Some great dynamism in the park painting, John, with the striding figure, leaning trees and diagonal shadows reinforcing movement.I also like the breaking up of the background shadows with highlights which creates more interest for me. I feel there could be more highlight on the figure, picking her out the background ( or is that a man bag?) a lighter face and leading leg as you are implying that they are in the light. Maybe float in some yellow on the sunlit grass to increase the impact.

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    1. Hi Graham and many thanks for your feedback, all much appreciated. You’re quite right about the figure, I was keen to avoid the figure looking ‘stuck-on’ but probably went too far the other way so she now looks a little lost in the background. I don’t know about you but I find it quite difficult to go back to something once I’ve ‘finished’ it. I may do another take on this rather than do any more work on it as I’d also like to generally make the colour’s cleaner – especially all the grass area where it went a bit muddier than I’d planned for! This will have to wait for another time though as I’m already on to a new subject! Thanks so much Graham, really appreciate your advice and observations!

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  3. I am see more of an opening up in your paintings. The first painting has a light and expanse that carries across well. The second one also shines with light and I think that the figure has that brisk movement that brings interest to the scene. I saw the first painting on Instagram but it is here that I got a better gist of it. I often have a niggling feeling that something is off with a finished painting. I think that sometimes I am so used to being so hard on myself that I have that feeling follow me around on all my paintings! Now to decifer if it is my usual perfectionist attitude or there is truly something that should have been different or fixed. I suspect that you might be experiencing this. I am loving what’s happening in your paintings.

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    1. Tickled pink with this feedback Margaret – all very much appreciated! I know what you mean about having a constant critic for company – but in this instance I do think the critic is right: the tree’s too central! That aside, and with your comments ringing in my ears, there’s a lot to take forwards from these two! Thanks so much Margaret.

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  4. Your sky is absolutely great. Very free, which is exactly what watercolour does best. Both paintings are really good. It’s so tempting to keep fiddling with watercolour but usually it will control what happens by itself.
    I really like the look of the brushes you’ve purchased. I’m going to have to order one online I guess. Very hard to find around here.
    Doug from Canada.

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    1. Hi Doug and many thanks for this, much appreciated and really pleased you like them! The brushes I have are by a company called pro arte but widely available as far as I’m aware (plus there are many different variants by many different manufacturers). I’m not 100% certain, but I think they evolved from or are related to the brushes that are used for hand painted customised paint jobs on cars and motorbikes (but maybe someone will prove me completely wrong on this!) – Thanks again Doug and good luck with the brush hunt!

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