Stuck at Ryvoan Bothy
"Ryvoan Bothy", watercolour, 16 x 26 cm
Sometimes I have what I call 'Sticky' subjects. These are paintings that I get stuck on and can't seem to get right, despite trying several times. If the subject is a good one, I keep coming back to it because I don't like to be beaten. This is one of those subjects, which I have used up quite a few sheets of paper on over a number of years. I nearly said 'wasted paper', but I don't think work is ever a waste of time if something can be learned in the process.
The main problem was the wooded hillsides in the middle distance. Scots Pine trees tend to have a distinctive appearance, with tall trunks and branching tops. The forests have ragged edges, where individual seedlings have taken root. I wanted to convey some of that character, but I kept falling into the trap of painting too carefully. I had to remind myself that the trees were only a supporting element; the main focus was the bothy. Ironically, when I stopped worrying about trying to make the trees look right, I got just the effect I was looking for. I literally hadn't been able to 'See the wood for the trees'!
I also had trouble with the brownish crimson colour of the heather in the foreground. It was quite dark in tonal value, but when I painted it that way it looked too dull and heavy. The solution I found was to make it lighter, and just pick out a few darker areas.
I feel I can put this subject behind me now, and when I have something similar to do in future I will have a better idea how to go about it.