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
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
50 cm x 80 cm x 3.8 cm acrylic on canvas, ready to hang
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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.
Fabulous painting John. I love the warmth of the colours you have used. The explanation of the evolution of the painting is really interesting and informative. Brilliant 🤩
Amazing, loved seeing how it developed into the end result .Which is beautiful.
Thank you Jane.
Thank you Pat, glad you enjoyed the journey and the finished result.
Many thanks, John, for sharing with us not only a privileged peek into the creation of a painting but also an antidote for stagnant thinking. It’s a good reminder of the collaboration between the maker and the object — that the piece will communicate what it wants to become if you allow yourself the freedom to keep seeing it anew. The finished painting is full of feeling and atmosphere — an immersive and dreamy impression of the place that inspired it. This will stay with me for quite a while.
You’re very welcome Jo, your wise words rang true with me concerning the collaboration, thank you very much
Glad to hear that you connected with the finished piece.
I really like this piece John. The hazy, warm feeling is wonderful – and it was fascinating to read about how you came by the final image. Keep painting please 🙂
Many thanks Eoin, that means a lot to me; I do hope your own work is going well
As always I like to let a painting ‘sink in’ – to see it, but then also to feel it; I find this to be especially important in your work John. The finished painting is a joy with its dancing, hazy light and the rich warm colours of autumn. For me, it evokes a strong atmosphere of being in amongst the trees in a quiet spot – a private moment when enveloped in the woody, leafy smell, the sun shafts reflect and bounce off the water. The way it came about is a fascinating story, so thank you for sharing it with us.
Hello Chris, thank you for your thoughtful comment on the painting and the process.Your reading of the painting is very much like my own, as if the viewer is being cosseted by nature. It’s interesting how you picked up on the sensory aspects of the painting, which pleases me to hear that perhaps my feelings may have been transmitted to the viewer of the painting