Dear Art Lover,

I hope you are keeping well.

Today I’d like to show you the journey of a painting called ‘Clearing in the Wood V’.

As the name of the painting suggests, it’s a variation on a theme though here, the colour palette is warmer with oranges and deep reds.

Alongside the Ouvèze River, among the trees and bushes is a clearing with a pool. It’s barely noticeable but in the evening light, it glows with the rays of the setting sun reflecting on the still water.

I was there in autumn and this is a painting of that visit. It’s not a representation but I hope to capture what I felt in that moment.

The atmosphere, the quiet, the solitude.

This is the journey of how the painting was made.

Clearing in the Wood V Stage 1

The journey begins with the first step, in other words, covering the white off the intimidating blank canvas.

I had no plan to work to apart from using the rich colours of autumn and to keep the painting loose and open for as long as possible.

Using a watercolour wet into wet technique, I layed in the first sweeps of colour.

After I finished, I could see possibilities in how the colours had poolled and spread.

Clearing in the Wood V Stage 2

Clearing in the Wood V stage 2 of painting creation


With a dampened sponge, I lifted out colour, dabbing and wiping to create shape and form.

Always at the back of my mind was holding onto the abstract qualities in the painting.

How to do this?

By using large brushes and sponges to avoid becoming fiddly.


Clearing in the Wood V Stage 3

At this stage, I began to see shapes and tree forms emerging at the bottom of the painting forming perhaps reflections in the water, amorphous but still holding possibilities.

I like the idea that the darker shapes at the edge of the pool at the top of the painting and the reflections in the bottom quarter were counter balancing each other.

Clearing in the Wood V Stage 4

The following day, I turned the painting 180°.

I often do this to see what possibilities are available to me.

Distant trees had emerged in the top section of the painting.

So I then started blocking the reflected shapes at the bottom of the painting using yellows and oranges.

I then used a rich deep red and orange to glaze over the whole surface hoping to give unity and depth to the piece.


Clearing in the Wood V Stage 5

Once again I turned the painting.

I liked what I saw in the horizontal format.

I left it to sit overnight.

The following day, I was drawn to the abstract qualities in the work whilst an aspect of reflections in the water was retained.


Clearing in the Wood V Stage 6

I settled on the horizontal format.

It works: it is dynamic and energetic and yet retains the balance that a landscape size can bring.

Except now, I turned the painting 180° once more.

This pleased me more. It works better with the overall composition.

With a brush I added rich pinks, light violets and burnt reds to define shapes.

Clearing in the Wood V Stage 7

Clearing in the Wood V by John O'Grady | The Completed Artwork: Dappled light, Water reflections, a magical autumnal feel with warm oranges and reds

Clearing in the Wood V

50 cm x 80 cm x 3.8 cm acrylic on canvas, ready to hang

This is the finished piece.

The hardest part when making a painting is knowing the right moment to stop.

I guess it’s more instinct that tells me: enough and, no more.

It really is easy to destroy a painting by over working it.

Throughout the process, I wanted to keep abstract shapes whilst still evoking the feeling about the place.

I’d love to hear how you respond to this painting and how it came into the world.