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Painting project phase 1
Painting project phase 1

Painting project - paint a woodland scene


Colin Steed - Posted on 24 Jan 2011

I found this subject (above right) while looking through some old photographs I took years ago. It’s always a good exercise, as you often find a subject you missed first time round. It was taken on one of many walks I took through a wooded area close to my home in Galleywood, Essex one summer. It’s the ideal subject to give us a lift from the winter blues.
The tones and colours are good, but, as so often is the case with woodland subjects, some parts are too busy to make a good watercolour. Most subjects need to be simplified and this one is no exception.


Before you start, answer the following questions:
  • Do you need to change the composition?
  • Is the large tree in the best position?
  • Are there too many trees and too much leaf area?
  • Do you need to include all the branches?
  • How can you create a distant area and where should it be?
  • Will I need to change colour or tone?

The composition

By and large, the composition looks right, but it’s always good practice to produce thumbnail sketches in pencil to help clarify any doubts you may have.
As always, you’ll need a distance, a middle distance and a foreground. The foreground is the large tree to the right and the undergrowth to the left. The many smaller trees and dense leaf and branches behind make up the middle distance, but there is no real depth or far distant area in this scene. An opening in the band of trees running across the back I think would do the trick. My advice would be to make thumbnail sketches to work this out. Use a soft lead pencil, 4B or 5B would be about right, and always use a good quality sketchbook.

Sketch 1 (above) shows my first thumbnail sketch. I moved the large tree to the centre and added more middle distant trees to the right. As you can see, the large tree, the focal point, is now in the centre and the composition is out of balance. We no longer want to look at anything else but the large tree.

In Sketch 2 (above) I moved the large tree well over to the right. This is a much more pleasing composition and this time the eye is drawn to an area to the right of the three small distant trees. This is the ideal place for the most distant area of the painting.

In my final thumbnail, Sketch 3 (above), I moved the large tree a touch towards the centre, added three trees to the right of it and, to balance the composition, took away a tree from the distant cluster to the left of the large tree. This will make the best composition.

The full article can be found in the March 2011 issue of Leisure Painter, and Colin completes this project in the April edition (published March 4 2011). Readers completing the painting projects each month are invited to send us their artworks which are added to a special portfolio in the gallery, click here to see previous projects.


Colin has also provided some bonus content to go with this feature, exclusively for readers of our regular e-newsletters. Email if you missed your copy and would like to read more.

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