Over the weekend a friend posted a series of photographs on Instagram taken during a woodland walk. It’s funny how an image grabs you one day that might not on another day.

On this particular occasion, one of the main appeals was that I needed a subject that I’d be able to sketch out quickly as I was pushed for time! It’s rarely the best reason for choosing a subject but sometimes needs must.

Watercolour painting of  bright sunlight streaming into a forest by artist John Haywood
Woodland watercolour

After sketching this out very loosely, I ran a fine dryish brush stroke of masking fluid up the right hand edges of the two adjacent trees, towards the left hand side of the painting. I also splattered and splashed some masking fluid across the foreground. This was to preserve some white of the paper for highlights and bright foliage to enable me to paint the everything else with a greater sense of controlled abandon than if I was having to preserve these areas by painting around them.

When I’ve considered views like this before, I’ve often got caught up in how to convey the details without getting caught up in the details. On this occasion however, I painted with pace and energy, building up from a very light and soft first wash, to some much more expressive dry brushtrokes with much darker pigment.

Finally, I removed the masking fluid and just touched in a light brushstroke or two of colour, just some light red up the two tree trunks and a vibrant mix of green on the foreground foliage to indicate where the light was hitting.

I was really pleased with how this turned out and how the painting ‘reads’ overall. Usually, when I finish a painting, it stays on view for a few days before I take it off it’s stretcher and put it away somewhere. This just gives me time to stand back from it, to see in different light conditions and reflect on which bits work and which I think I could improve on.

I’ve really enjoyed having this one out for the past few days. It’s definitely one that works better from a distance than up close, but I think because of the tonal range and strong contrasts, it works and reads well in a wide range of light conditions.

It was only midway through painting this that it brought back memories of a series of photos that took a few years ago. My preferred cycle route to work takes me through a forest and one morning, as the sun was surfacing beyond a distant treeline, I stopped to take some photos of the light streaming through the forest (at least this is how I remember it!)

I recall that at the time, I wanted to try to paint the scene, but just wasn’t quite sure how to paint it. Having just painted this view, I’m sorely tempted to go back through my archives to see if I can find these photos.

An invitation to participate in the ten day challenge

I’m not really sure what the origins of the 10 day challenge are but, on Monday I received an invitation on Instagram to participate from David Whitehead, who is a wonderful landscape.

The premise of the challenge is to post a painting which, as I understand it, can be old or new, every day for ten days. The only restrictions is that there shouldn’t be any description or any hashtags and that each day you post, you should nominate/invite another person to participate.

By the time you read this, I may already have started this little challenge… the most challenging aspect of which seems to be deciding what images to share, and who I might also invite to participate!

16 thoughts on “Woodland watercolour painting

  1. This is one of the best paintings I have seen from you! Congratulations! It may be because I have a nearly identical scene from my breakfast room where I spend most of my time and where I do my painting. Outside my large condo in St. Louis, Missouri, I have a too large patio surrounded by a brick wall, but outside that in the ‘common ground’ there is a steep hillside almost a duplicate of your painting! I have tried many times to paint it and everyone has been a failure, and it plagues me! Now I finally understand and thank you! Only problem is I have been so unsecussful using Masque; I’ve tried all kinds! I have not yet tried to ‘splatter’ them but I guess I just hate them! Any help, suggestions will be appreciated!
    I’ve been so busy I have not been able to attend to your great blogs; I just celebrated my 90th birthday on Nov. 15, and my wonderful son-in-law’s birthday was the day before, so in spite of Covid, we celebrated! My 2 sons (and one wife) were here for the event! That involved 5 days of company between our 2 houses. Then Thanksgiving followed swiftly and my other granddaughter and family came for that, before we had gained our breath! I’m exhausted!
    Our very controversial election is still in hold. I doubt you in England are getting the TRUE story about what’s happening!
    Whatever, I really love your painting this time!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Happy belated birthday greetings from Brighton Margery! Sounds like you’ve had a wonderful time and it must have been great to share it with family. So pleased that this painting struck a chord with you. For something that I started with particularly low expectations, I was surprised how well this turned out! The only suggestion I have about masking fluid is to try a different brand or two. I had no joy with Winsor and Newton masking fluid, I just could apply it with any degree of delicacy or accuracy. I’ve since come across a brand called Vallejo liquid mask – it’s much more fluid and I’ve had much more joy with this but I still only try to use it sparingly. All the best Margery

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You have every right to be pleased. That is a wonderful painting and you have captured the light filtering through the trees beautifully.

    I hope you do go back to your photos and find some inspiration.

    That challenge sounds like fun but it unsustainable. Like a Ponzi scheme, you will eventually run out of new people to invite. I can’t do the math but if you invite one person per day for 10 days, that means each person invites 10 people. One becomes ten becomes 100, 1000 and so forth. You’re talking a billion people or more, plus it will last longer than 10 days as the 10 days start with each invitation.

    If you are familiar with the story of the King’s chessboard (Avi did it as One Grain of Rice), you learn the power of exponents. Now she doubled the grain of rice each day for a month. In this case each person invites 10 people, then they invite 10 and so forth. Won’t be long before the entire population fo the world would be invited. Of course that is unrealistic. But eventually someone is going to be invited multiple times. It is a fun idea though, much like those bucket challenges but much more enjoyable. Perhaps this is a great time for the world to be bombarded with art every day.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Mary and thanks for this, so pleased that you like the painting. I’m still to start the challenge on Instagram. I do understand your ponzi scheme comparison, and I think many of the people that I’d like to invite have already participated but the way I see it, there’s no obligation to take part and it is pretty harmless in the grand scheme of things! It’s more a matter of whether I can be bothered to be honest! I’m quite content with my once a week or once a fortnight posts on instagram. The thought of posting every day for 10 days though! ?(I know this is some people’s daily output and they’d be horrified at my feeble output, but that’s just the way it is!)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Then think of it like a chain letter. You don’t want to have bad luck or break a brush, tear your paper or drip down the painting, now do you? After all, it is a challenge. And if you can’t find 10 to pass it on to, then I guess one or two will have to do.

        Oh, and don’t bother challenging me. I don’t do instagram. Or Facebook or Twitter. So no posting for me.

        (How about Marge?)

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Not so many washes today, John, and a lot more dry-brush and dense colours/paint. I like it. I also like the way the lighter greens leap out. Is it just me that wonders whether the texture of the paper isn’t a little bit over-dominant when you use dry-brush on a smallish work like this? (Not a criticism, of course, just a question flung out there.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Rob and thanks for this. I know what you mean about the paper texture becoming overly dominant. I don’t think it’s so much to do with the size of the painting so much as the sheer volume of dry brush work. I think for the more distant tree trunks, I should have gone for a lighter wash and not used dry brush work, and to have used the dry brush a little more sparingly and judiciously! I’ll try to remember that on my next forest scene!

      Liked by 1 person

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