Longer term followers may recall that last year I dipped my toe into Brighton’s annual Artists Open Houses bonanza. The Open Houses coincide with Brighton’s main arts festival and the Brighton Fringe Festival – both of which are the largest of their kind in England. The Artists Open Houses run each weekend in May and showcase the work of thousands of artists in hundreds of homes across the city. Last year I pitched up with my paintings for one weekend and displayed them in a friend’s workshop in the garden. I also spent a day painting at the Open House too. I enjoyed it so much that I thought it would be worthwhile making more of a commitment this year. Sadly my friend was ‘taking a year off’ the Open Houses but, in discussing it with some friends and neighbours, we decided we’d take on the challenge of running our own open house. And hence the Park Gate Collective was born!

I live in a small and rather brilliant residential development called Park Gate. Designed by the pioneering architect Eric Lyons, it was built in 1958 and is home to a wonderful array of talented people, many of which I’m proud to call my friends. Four of us will be showing work during this year’s festival and you can see more on the Park Gate Collective website. Over the weekend, I picked up the hot off the press brochures for this year’s Open Houses:

Front cover of this year's Artists Open Houses brochure
Front cover of this year’s Artists Open Houses brochure
The Park Gate Collective entry on page 77!
The Park Gate Collective entry on page 77!

There’s also an accompanying Artists Open Houses website that’s searchable by artist’s name, venue or discipline.

I also spent a lot of the weekend undertaking the mammoth (and if I’m honest, really dull) task of preparing all the mounts for my work. When I did this last year I think I must have made a bit of a meal of it, but I seemed to have learned from the experience and feel a lot more organised this year. For anyone based in the UK considering doing their own framing or mounting, I can highly recommend DIY Framing. They’ve been tremendously helpful, generous with their advice and efficient with orders and deliveries. All of the mount materials, (mounts, backing boards and tapes) that I’m using are conservation quality and ph neutral. These are considerably more expensive than standard mount board, but they don’t ‘yellow’ with exposure to light and air. I was also able to break out my Logan Mount cutter which is simple to use and utterly indispensable for creating professional quality mounts with nicely bevelled edges.

My growing mount mountain and trust Logan mount cutter!
My growing mount mountain and trust Logan mount cutter!

I have between 20-26 new works that I need to get mounted plus a stack that I already have mounted and from last year. I’ll probably only have 6 or so framed works on display at any one time, but I’ll also have a browser or two where people will be able to leaf through works.

There’s still a tremendous amount of work to do on getting everything ready and set up, but after breaking the back of the mount cutting over the weekend, I’m already feeling a little more relaxed.

I’m also keen that the preparations don’t totally overshadow my painting, so I was really pleased to also squeeze in some time at my easel! I’m not quite sure what possessed me to tackle this view, other than I really liked it (but seriously doubted my ability to paint it!). The challenges were to distil so much cluttered information, and also to paint the scene with a freedom and boldness that I often find challenging when the main figures are so large, dominant and in the foreground.

A watercolour painting of a view in Dieppe, next to the Church of St Remy by John Haywood
I haven’t quite decided on a title for this painting – but it’s a view in Dieppe, next to the Church of St Remy

On the whole, I managed to resist the temptation to overwork the foreground figures and keep them suggestive. I was pleasantly surprised by how this turned out, partly no doubt because my expectations at the outset set pretty low, but also because it does evoke the feeling of a relaxed conversation between friends in the sunshine.

I was really pleased to be able to fit this painting in amongst all the other preparations and hope that, with a fair wind, I may still manage a few more exhibit-able paintings in time for the Open House!

15 thoughts on “My first watercolour exhibition of 2018

  1. Best of luck with the exhibition, John. I like the figures in the painting. I think that they add dynamism to townscapes and are well worth putting in, otherwise they look like the day after Armageddon. As for framing, I’ve been down the do it yourself route, but I have a framer who can do it cheaper and better. He also lets me use his shop window for exhibitions – another outlet for your work.

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    1. Thanks Graham – I agree about figures adding dynamism (and scale) to townscapes, I just sometimes find my treatment of figures a bit hit and miss! Very impressive to find a framer that allows you to get your works framed cheaper (and displayed) as you cany by doing it yourself. Whenever I’ve taken my work to a framers, I’ve found it to be pretty expensive and a lot of cost to pass on to the buyer. I’m currently doing a half and half approach! I’m doing all the mounting myself but I buy my frames off the shelf and try to buy them whenever the supplier has a sale on which helps to bring the price down quite a bit. I’ll hopefully have a better sense if I’ve struck the right balance by after this next exhibition!

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      1. Thanks Graham, I haven’t explored the costs of bulk ordering at a framers but I usually buy my frames in bulk and I agree about the styling of frames. I’ve tried out a few now and have settled on a simple solid oak frame that I buy in two sizes. Hopefully they’ll all work well together when they’re up!

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  2. Hi John, how exciting for you and it will be fun to share the experience with other artists.
    I am going to Calke Abbey ( in Leicester) to paint tomorrow which I am excited about, especially as the sun has come out…woopee!
    I wish we had plein air events here as they do in the USA but I guess our weather is against us.
    I really love your latest painting and feel sure that would sell…I think you should frame it!

    All the best to you,
    Carole

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    1. Hi Carole, thanks so much for this and I’m super jealous about your Calke Abbey painting trip although I fear on day like today, you might get through more sun cream than you will paint! I look forward to seeing the results of your trip. I do like the idea of those plein-air events and am a little surprised that there aren’t any here. I did see something that looked similar last year that I think was called ‘Paint out Norwich’ which looked like an invitation-only event. Maybe we should start our own!

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  3. Well, how exciting. If you can’t get into a show, hold your own!

    You know, you’ll have to price all of your paintings too, right? I find that’s the hardest part. I don’t have enough to make matting and framing a pain in the….back. Plus I buy my mats. I actually find it fun, except for the always present dog hair.

    I visited the sites of your colleagues. Tamana has two necklaces I really love but they’re a bit too pricey for me.

    Turns out I can only enter the local county fair in the regular artists’ competition fine art category because I no longer qualify in the student one as I’ve been taking the emeritus classes for three years now. I won’t pay $20 per entry just to apply and surely be rejected. I’d rather pay the watercolor society and try to get into one of their shows. What I can do is pay $15 to the fair to participate in the plein air contest. It include free admission and parking, plus entering one painting at the end of the day. That’s a bargain and no rejection. Just not winning, which I expect anyway. I start at 10am and finish at 4pm. Totally doable. I can do up to three paintings, then pick one to have judged. They judge at 5:30 pm. There are even prizes, which I doubt I’ll win, but it shows they do take it very seriously. $200 first, $100 second, $50 third place. I have to decide by June 15th if I’m brave enough to give it a go. Well, not so much brave as willing to fight the crowds and sweat the weather.

    You are lucky in that you are probably either indoors or that very nice courtyard. I went to the links and read through the history. Very interesting. Student of Walter Gropius, huh? When I visited the Steiff factory in Giengen, Germany they have a very Bauhaus building on the grounds. All glass. I think they call it the aquarium. I love the colored glass sprinkled throughout your buildings, the terrazzo floors (which are very “in” again) and the lovely grounds. How lucky for you to have such extensive gardens so close to you; just a short walk.

    Best wishes for an enjoyable exhibition.

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    1. Many thanks for this. I’ve heard of plein-air competitions but am not sure that they’re very prevalent here in the UK. Aside from the fact that I find plein air painting challenging enough before even adding a ‘competitive’ edge, I think that sounds like a great use of $15 and your time. I like the idea of spending time with other artists and being able to get a bit of peer review, I have found it a bit depressing sinking money into my competition entries and not receiving any constructive feedback (I understand why this isn’t possible, but it’s frustrating nevertheless!) Many thanks too for taking the time to explore the Park Gate Collective site – hopefully I’ll be able to post the odd update as thing’s progress! All the very best

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  4. This sounds really exciting for you and at the same time a little overwhelming. I really love the new painting you showed in the post. Too bad I am over here in the US half a planet away. I would love to see your work in person in real life. I will check out the website though. Thanks again for such wonderful posts.

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    1. Hi Tim and many thanks for your kind words, they’re much appreciated. Should I ever get the chance to visit the states I’ll bring a selection of paintings over with me! Meantime, I really value and appreciate your support from afar!

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      1. Hey you are welcome. I not only enjoy your paintings, but I really value your commentary and explanations about your thoughts on your process. As a photographer, that helps me to think critically about my work too. Good luck at the show!

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  5. Exciting times ahead for you. I really like the lighting along the right side extending back to the people and tables. It seems to support and ties into the group in front. Strategic placement of ‘sparkle’. Great composition, I must say. I can’t wait to hear about the success with the upcoming open house.

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    1. Thanks so much Margaret, much appreciated! this is one of those paintings that I was pretty ambivalent about at first but have grown to like more and more! I’ve already popped a mount on it. I don’t think it’ll make one of the frames but it’ll help to pad out the work in the browser!

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