Hi there fellow doodlewashers. My name’s John Haywood and I live in the fair city of Brighton on the south coast of England (follow me on my blog, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest!). I went to art college over thirty years ago and where I did a practical 3D design/crafts course. The lasting upshot of this is that I’m quite handy round the house with a screwdriver, drill and hammer. After graduating however, my work – and life in general – totally took me away from being a creative practitioner.
Fast forward about twenty-five years and a friend introduced me the work of Edward Seago. This was the eureka moment that rekindled my desire to pick up a paintbrush again. I immediately connected with simplicity and immediacy of Seago’s watercolours and began to seek out other artists working in a similar way. When I eventually plucked up the courage to put brush to paper, I found my early efforts more stressful than enjoyable.
With a bit of perseverance however, I picked up a bit of momentum and decided that a blog may help my discipline and motivation, as well as enabling me to record my progress. Brushes with Watercolour seemed a suitable enough play on words to capture my situation – a passionate watercolour painter that doesn’t get to paint as much as I’d like.
Since starting the blog, I’ve done all the usual things… move house, change jobs, have a baby – so my brushes with watercolour really have been pretty infrequent to date. As things are becoming increasingly settled however, I’m finding it possible to make painting a more regular part of my life – and I’m loving it. Another a big incentive is that I’m going on my first painting course in July. I’ll be spending a week painting with Steve Hall, a great watercolour artist and Edward Wesson expert so I really want to be able to make the most if it.
The work here is all based, albeit quite loosely in some cases, on works by Edward Seago and Edward Wesson. At first I started to try to emulate work by these artists in a very direct and literal way. I see this activity as an essential part of developing my abilities, like serving my watercolour apprenticeship.
More recently however, as my confidence has grown, they’ve become more of a starting point and I’ve felt much more relaxed about the direction they go in. I think one of the best lessons I’ve learnt is not to compare my work with the source material – whether that’s directly from nature or from one of my artistic heroes, as I’ll only ever be disappointed. Far better to view one’s work on its own, away from the source, and to allow it to stand on its own. But now for some nitty-gritty practicalities:
In my hand: is usually an Escoda brush. I’m embarrassed to admit to quite how many brushes I’ve acquired but as time’s gone on, Escoda has become my preferred manufacturer. In the past month or so I’ve been making good friends with a relatively small number of brushes – an Aquario squirrel mop (No14), a number of Reserva Kolinsky-tajmyr sable rounds (No.s 14, 10, 8) and a Kolinsky sable round with a central pointed tip (No. 12) which I use like a rigger brush. Following the advice that I’ve read, in an effort to help keep my paintings feeling free and unfussy, I always try to use a bigger brush than I think I should be using!
In my other hand: is a Barry Herniman Cloverleaf palette. As with my brushes, I’ve tried lots of different a palettes but this one is serving me really well with plenty of space for pigment and lots of generous wells and surface area for all manner of colour mixing. Like so many of us I imagine, I fantasise about one day owning a House of Hoffman or Craig Young palette – but for now – this one does just fine.
In my palette: is a relatively modest collection of Winsor & Newton professional artist tube colours, largely based on those that I understand the likes of Seago and Wesson used: Winsor Yellow; Raw Sienna; Burnt Sienna; Burnt Umber; Alizarin Crimson; Cobalt Blue; Ultramarine Blue; to which I’ve also added Lamp Black (you can blame this on Roland Hilder); Payne’s Grey and Light Red.
This selection seems to enable me to get most of the colour combinations that I need to represent the English landscape and, having a fixed limited palette means that I’m gradually getting to really ‘know’ and understand my palette.
On my board: is usually some form of Bockingford. I confess that I haven’t experimented with lots of different papers to date but I’ve always found Bockingford to be a cheap’n’cheerful make that I never feel so precious about that it hampers me. I prefer a heavy paper and have recently been using a ‘400gsm extra rough’. I’ve also been using a lot of tinted papers which I’ve found really helpful in creating a unifying mood really early on in a painting. Most of the time, I’m painting on 1/4 imperial as this seems pretty convenient – big enough to loosen up on, but not so big that I feel intimidated by the paper.
As this year progresses, and the weather hopefully improves, my aim is to do more painting on location and to allow my own watercolour expression to develop. I’m also finding it really enjoyable and inspiring to find out about so many other people’s styles and approaches. It’d be nice to think that there are some other doodlewashers out there that also like this style of painting and might like to keep in touch with my brushes with watercolour.