A Walk in the Woods
A Walk in the Woods
by Ellen Rice
One evening a few years ago, I was watching a documentary about Thoreau on television when across my screen appeared a beautiful, foggy scene of trees on the edge of a pond, all in hues of bluish grey.
It was so peaceful and beautiful that I wanted to preserve the feeling in paint while the idea was fresh.
I rarely paint at night because I don’t see colors well under artificial light, but the urge to paint this scene led me to grab the first sheet of heavy, textured paper I found, an old tin of watercolors and a jar of water and started straight in with a brush and Winsor & Newton’s Payne’s Gray, a grey that has the nuances of blues and greys I wanted. Use any other colors at night and I couldn't guarantee the results.
Within a short while I had a scene on paper that I was very happy with. I left it to dry overnight and turned in, but what I awoke to the next morning was not the scene I’d painted.
The paper I’d grabbed wasn’t watercolor paper after all, it was acid free, archival barrier paper used in framing and something I also used for pastel paintings – but it’s not suited to water media.
I don’t know how it’s made, but it’s clearly from trees, as most paper is. The paper had a wood grain going through it and the watercolors had soaked into the wood grain.
I had really liked the painting the night before, could still see the basic forms created and didn’t want to give up on it. So I lightly took a damp sponge to areas where dark wood patterns had emerged, removing them by gently wiping and as I did discovered I could make streams of light go through the woods this way. I continued in this way for awhile, then let it dry.
Afterward, I went back in and dry-brushed more Payne’s Grey in areas where I wanted solid colors like tree trunks, branches and grasses, and what you see before you is the final result.
Simple, but not so simple. The end, I think, justified all the work. I feel at peace as I mentally meander through this walk in the woods. I hope you do, too.