This Sussex Life: "My job and my art fulfil different but important parts of my life"

John Haywood, University of Sussex marketing manager, is also a talented watercolourist whose work will be on display as part of the Artists Open Houses during this year’s Brighton Festival.

I’ve been working at Sussex in the marketing team since 2010. But I’d had a long courtship. My first experience was in 1984, when I stayed in Room 98 of York House with a mate, who was a student here. It was the night before my interview at Brighton Poly, as it was then, to do a degree course in 3D design. I was interested in being an artisan, but I hadn’t realised how tough it was to make it in that field.

I then got a part-time job working for a music promoter, and found myself coming to campus to deliver flyers for gigs and events. And then went into PR and worked for the Brighton Festival for five years, which included promoting events at the Gardner Arts Centre, which is now Attenborough Centre for Creative Arts.

I started doing watercolour sketches as a student. I just knew there was something about watercolours that really appealed to me. There were a couple of artists that I was introduced to and I try to emulate their work, such as Edward Seago , a favourite of the Royal family. And it has just evolved .

In 2016 when my daughter, Flora, was about 4 I started painting consistently . I try to paint once a week - usually early in the morning at weekends. I set myself up in the kitchen, or I go outside and sketch or paint.

For every good painting there are normally seven or eight shockers that people don’t get to see . I am more critical than some people might be, and I kind of know what I want something to look like. If you come to it cold you might think that it looks great, but I see the flaws.

My job and my art fulfil different but important parts of my life . My job is quite analytical, there’s a collaborative element - working in teams - whereas the painting is a much more solitary undertaking. I’d say where the greatest crossover comes is that I have a website and social media accounts and I do a lot of work in digital marketing. There’s a bit of a benefit there, but it’s more that they are opposites in that one allows an escape from the other.

Sometimes you ask, what’s it all about, do I just do a nine-to-five? It’s easy to feel that you have narrowed your options. Painting has opened up a whole new range of possibilities, and there’s a sense that I am constantly learning - in my job and outside it. If people say they like my art work then you can’t help but feel a lift. It is really satisfying and provides a work-life balance in that way.

I am doing a lot on the digital marketing front with our undergraduate and postgraduate campaigns. It’s a really interesting area of work to be moving in. I’ve been working in marketing for 30 years, and as a sector and a discipline it has changed so much. The pace of change is so constant that it keeps it challenging you all the time. There’s still a place for leaflets, but there’s also the expectation that you can reach people on whichever platform they use.

I would love to be able to paint even more than I do now, but the idea of just painting I’m not so sure about . If your passion becomes your main focus, then you may feel more pressure and get less enjoyment from it. I am pleased whenever I sell something. It’s just the highest compliment that anyone can pay. It’s a wonderful thing to happen and amazes me that I have now got paintings on people’s walls across the UK as well as in the States, Finland, Italy, France, Belgium and New Zealand.

John’s work can be seen at Art at Zerbs, 188 Dyke Road, Brighton, BN1 5AA. Open 11am-6pm every Saturday and Sunday in May, and each Bank Holiday Monday (6 and 27 May). See here for details.

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By: Jacqui Bealing
Last updated: Thursday, 2 May 2019

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