Through the Artists Open Houses, I have received a new commission from my neighbours. They had originally been interested in one of my Barcelona paintings but, in a fine example of ‘sods’ law’ – the one they were most keen on has already sold. As they were keen to have a painting with which they had a real connection, they asked if they could commission me to do a painting of Park Gate, where we live. It’s a challenge that I’ve nervously accepted. I do love Park Gate and I love the modernist style of architecture. It’s not, however, my natural choice of subject matter and it’s not, by any stretch, what could be described as ‘pretty’ nor a perfect match for my loose approach to painting.

I do have a few ideas that I’ve discussed with ‘the client’ and have started to take a  few reference photos. The challenge that I’m trying to balance is focussing on what excites me, which is usually a play of light and capturing some of the character of the buildings without tying myself in knots with loads of details. I had a scour through my photos and did come across an image that I thought would be good for a warm up to see what does or doesn’t work. What I liked about this view was that it combined strong light, included enough detail to make it clear where it is (especially to anyone that lives in Park Gate), had some human interest and that the buildings were identifiable, but not the focal point.

Park Gate sketch, a watercolour sketch by John Haywood
Park Gate sketch

For a preparatory sketch, I was quite pleased with this and, more importantly, it gave me some good ideas for what I’d do differently next time. For instance, the white band of the buildings were applied at the end using gouache. This is fine for this sketch, but I need to find a way of preserving the white of the paper for these sections. In future sketches, I’ll look at painting negatively and will also most likely explore masking out these areas so that I can still work very wet and loosely over these areas and then knock them back a little afterwards.

What’s great is that this will be a really interesting project to focus on once the Open Houses come to a close after next weekend. In the meantime, I had a wonderful time last weekend with dear friends out in the countryside. The weather was glorious and the scenery was so beautiful that it rekindled in me the desire to do some landscape painting – something I’ve done precious little of for quite some time now.

It feels wonderful to have so much to look forward to with my painting: a new commission, some landscape painting and, an entirely new personal project that I’m still formulating. I hope to be able to reveal more about this next week but, as a sneak preview, it relates to the 30×30 Direct Watercolor 2018 project that’s being championed by the brilliant Marc Taro Holmes and Shari Blaukopf amongst others. But enough of the spoilers! As I say, I’ll hopefully be back next week with more details about my plans, plus a round-up of the Open Houses which come to a close this weekend.

16 thoughts on “New watercolour commission

  1. Can you explain to me (humbug humbug) why anyone would want to complete a picture every day of the week (humbug humbug) – let alone every day of the month (humbug humbug)?. How is watercolour ever going to be taken seriously if we seem to be able to knock off one a day (humbug humbug)?! Now then, John, find a sharp pencil and draw every last detail you can see on the face of those buildings and keep on painting till there’s nothing left to paint – it might take a year – and then price accordingly… Well, maybe not but I do agree with somebody here that a touch of oblique sunlight down the facade might add a little interest – and character – and texture… Having said all that, I think you’ve make a very successful start that clearly captures the character of the buildings and makes good compositional use of the ghosts.
    Off to start on this month’s painting now!

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    1. The 30×30 challenge of Marc Taro Holmes isn’t for a full fledged gallery ready painting a day. He’s an urban sketcher. He is basically challenging artists to paint everyday. Even if it’s just a little 5 min.sketch in a journal. I think that is a fine idea.

      The Doodlewash World Watercolor Month challege for July is basically the same thing. Paint every day. Do a full size studio painting, or a small quick sketch.

      To me these are much better exercises than the ones the writers do challenging them to write 1500 words a day.

      I go to the watercolor class at the senior center each week to make sure I paint once a week. I’m going to do these challenges to step up my game and paint once a day. Eight weeks. Maybe I’ll try to extend it afterwards. They say if you can do something for 9 weeks it becomes a habit. Or is that 90 days? Hmmm.

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      1. For my part, I’ll definitely be doing quick sketches! Doubt I’ll manage to keep it up through July as well though! Be interesting to see what difference a month or two of sustained daily sketching does for us though!

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    2. Haha, hi Rob (humbug humbug) – I don’t disagree with you on the knocking off paintings front! My circumstances make it hard/impossible to paint every day – or at least to paint in my usual manner. I think I could benefit from a little more playing around – so my plans for the 30×30 challenge is much more sketch based, just for a change of pace as much as anything. I have tried to paint something daily before, a long time ago, and I failed miserably so am setting my sights a even lower this time! Thanks for the comments on the commission sketch. I agree about needing to have some more interesting play of light on the buildings, and I also need to work out my ghosts too. I’m expecting to have some new reference photos back soon that I’m hoping will help provide a steer in the right direction. I must confess that I was feeling pretty relaxed about it until I got some of the comments on this post and now I’m feeling under a lot more pressure – so thanks for that! Hope this month’s painting is coming on a treat!

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      1. Don’t get stressed out on my account; I have coincidentally just completed my first ever commission but I was only given just over a week to paint it and frame it so didn’t have time to think/stress about it. I certainly didn’t invite a commentary from hoi polloi like me (if you follow)!

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      2. Thanks Rob – completing ones first ever commission, and getting it framed all in a week! Now that’s something that I would definitely make me feel stressed! Congratulations on getting it done! I have a feeling I’ll be procrastinating over this commission for quite some time yet!

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  2. As you say, this is a sketch and I like the start. But I miss the subtle texture of the buildings and the glass windows. Park Gate may seem simple but I don’t think it’s as simple as it seems. You have the brick, the “shingled” siding, the grillwork, the straight white beams of either metal or concrete (I can’t tell) and the windows. I’m looking at the Park Gate website again and the building is much more detailed than it first appears.

    This painting is also a bit different in that the figures aren’t the subject that is important, it’s the building. That flips the emphasis for you. I think this is going to be more of a challenge than you originally thought.

    Perhaps this is an opportunity to go out and do a little plein air sketching just around your own complex, then take a few reference photos and see what you come up with. Try early morning and evening to see which shadows you like best or try a few different angles. Do you have any nice sunny days this time of year?

    More sun: https://mishonmackay.com/hub/images/property/229496-5799e5c3da48c_orig.jpg

    Different angle: http://cdn.overstreet.co.uk/images/Property/large/4/2015/2/23/park-gate-somerhill-road-hove-east-sussex-000004658_GHV150063_IMG_00.jpg

    I think it’s one of the more difficult subjects, to do your own house or what you are most familiar with. I don’t know why. When I’m choosing a subject for the week’s watercolor class I’m usually using my vacation photos, not any from my own city. I’ve certainly never painted my own house. You’d think that would be the easiest plein air subject. Just take my stuff across the street, set up and then paint. But I’ve never done it.

    Maybe for the 30 x 30 challenge or the following month for World Watercolor Month in July. That’s just been announced on Doodlewash. I just got my copy of Marc Taro Holme’s Urban Sketcher. I need to go through that for inspiration. But I expect I’ll still hop in the car and go to the park or the beach, anywhere but across the street.

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    1. Thanks so much for this! lot’s of food for thought! I know what you mean about all of the details of Park Gate but i really don’t want to get involved in painting brick work etc! In my head, I’ve been thinking of foreground, middle ground and background, with the building being the background, so that I can treat it more as a silhouette (but with some identifiable features such as the strong white horizontals. I’ll also be putting in some figures too which I expect to become the focal point. The view that you referred me to in the first link is the kind of view I’ll be doing (that view is specifically looking towards block 4, which forms part of the brief!). I’ll start doing some sketches of this soon but doubt I’ll have anything to share for a few weeks yet! It’s good that this has come in as a commission really because, like you – I’d probably avoid painting such a local scene, not to mention the place that I live! Good luck with the 30×30 challenge!

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  3. Woah your plate is full, congratulations on your commission and I like that you are focusing on what excites you to get that forward motion going. I plan on joining in with the 30 x30 direct painting challenge as well. I haven’t done a challenge lately so this will be interesting. Looking forward to your paintings. Cheers!

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    1. Thanks Margaret and yes, it feels good (rather than overwhelming!) to have such a full plate! The 30×30 challenge is looks really interesting. I’m not sure how closely I’ll be able to stick to the guidelines (this will be my first challenge of this kind!) but the general criteria seem pretty relaxed! Look forward to seeing your 30×30!

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    1. Hi Sarah and yes! look forward to seeing what you get up to! Mine will be a bit of a ‘mini’ project but I’m looking forward to it. It will be something a quite different to how I usually work so it should be interesting and hopefully a bit of fun!

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