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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.


  1. Wonderful feeling of distance and interesting to hear your progress through the painting

    1. Thanks Polly, I'm glad I got through it in the end.

  2. Good morning Keith!.... We have all been struck down with "stuck"... and that overwhelming fever caused by detail. There is no way around it is there Keith - just through it. You certainly managed to stick it out successfully past "stuck".

    You highly successful treatment of depth and the highly believable veil of mist in the background make the painting a triumph. Bravo!

    On to other challenges!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

    1. Hi Bruce, I have a stubbornness that refuses to allow me to be beaten by a problem. It can be frustrating at times, but it's by working through these log-jams that we make progress isn't it.

      All the best,

  3. I think it is beautiful, Keith.

  4. The colours on the hills and foreground look quite similar, maybe that could be the problem. Apart from that I think it looks lovely Keith.

    1. The foreground colours are a bit brighter in the original, Caroline, so I think it should be OK.

  5. I've been here and think you've captured the place well - it makes me want to go and explore what is beyond that bothy which is exactly how I felt when I was there!


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