Assignment 4: Idea 2 – Quantock oaks


Quantock oak – mini watercolour exploration

We were in Somerset on holiday in the summer and found ourselves in the Quantock Hills – although quite high, these are gentle wooded hills with wonderful views. The woodlands themselves are ancient with lots of lichen on the trees, many of which are Sessile Oaks (as opposed to the English Oak) and they have wonderful twisted trunks and trailing branches. We experienced one of those special moments when everything becomes suffused with golden light, accentuating the lines of the trees and making the greenery glow. It lasted for just a matter of minutes but I captured some decent shots with my camera and since then I’ve been longing to work with them.

So these lovely Quantock woodlands might offer a good subject for this assignment… these trees get me excited and that is an essential ingredient. It would give me an opportunity to build on the learning from Assignment 1 for which I painted an scene in an orchard. The canvas support I’ve bought for this assignment is 3 feet by 4 so I have to be sure that the subject I choose will successfully scale up and work with these proportions.

To inspire me I did some internet research on tree paintings, particularly oaks and put together a Pinterest board here:

I found myself particularly absorbed by the work of those artists who have captured trees in a way that offers up all their organic and structural beauty without being purely representational including Piet Mondrian, Egon Schiele, Klimt, Gwilym Prichard (always an inspiration to me) and American artist Karen Mathison Schmidt.



Quantock woodlands – example photo

I selected a few of the photos and then looked at how I might create a painting and did six  quick 4″ x 3″ watercolour thumbnails. I know working from photos is not ideal but this technique definitely helps in interpreting photos in a less literal way. And interestingly, creating these mini paintings almost always changes my thinking about which viewpoint is likely to be most successful.


Thumbnails three, four  are talking to me… there is a sunlit path that leads the eye into the picture and   sun, wind and movement in the trailing branches.


Quantock oaks 1


Quantock oaks 2


Quantock oaks 3


Quantock oaks 4


Quantock oaks 5


Quantock oaks 6














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