Enchanted Wood – Part 1

My latest watercolor painting is based on a photograph I took last summer, while canoe camping on the Raquette River, in the Adirondack Mountains. I was drawn to the scene by the strong shadows, created by the early morning sun, on the tall, narrow trees and the path of pine needles.

In the next two blogs, I explain some of the thought process and steps behind the making of this multi-layered watercolor painting.

As with all my watercolor paintings, I sketched the scene onto transparent paper and then transferred it to 140 lb. cold press watercolor paper. Unlike paintings with architecture or objects with precise details, natural scenes don’t need to be as exact. I used resist to paint in the dominant trees because I wanted to preserve the white for highlights from the sun.


This painting is a perfect example of working back to front. I began with the background, painting in a wash for the sky and remote tree line. The sun is hitting the trees so they are light colored and pale, recessed far in the background. These trees have three layers of green dots created with a #00 paintbrush. I took an eraser brush and scrubbed out areas making it even softer. Most of these background trees will eventually be covered up with foreground branches and leaves.


At this point, I carefully studied the photograph and made my plan of attack. I broke the mid-ground into 5 different layers. Using much darker paint, I painted in the farthest layer of trees.


I rubbed the resist off the next layer of trees, and continued painting.


Again, I removed another layer of resist and painted more trees. I also added some resist to the foreground to save some white highlights for the bushes, as I continued to work forward.


At this point, the painting is starting to come together. The background is mostly painted in and I started working on the mid-ground. Before I painted the next four trees, I worked on the foliage. The large tree to the right will come last, as it is closest to the viewer. I also added some resist for plants among the pine needles and painted in a light wash for the path.


On each of these sections, I painted in a wash first with a #6 Round brush, then used my #1 and #00 round brushes to add tiny details for the branches, leaves and mid-ground foliage. Each section had about 3-6 layers of paint. With the painting of the four center trees finished, the mid-ground was now complete and I began working on the foreground


To be continued…

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