Although this is a special painting for me, it has never been posted before. I must have painted it in early 2003 and like most good things that have happened in my life, it was instigated by Merice albeit inadvertently. We lived in a small village just outside York at the time and Merice had been down to the City to do some shopping. As my greatest encouragement she was always on the lookout for things that would help me as a budding painter. She noticed a book in Waterstones that she liked. It was written by an artist called Nita Engle and was very attractively bound with one of her exciting watercolour paintings.
Reading it not only inspired me but transformed my whole attitude to painting. I had already discovered that you don’t improve at a gradual rate. You improve with sudden leaps forward and then level out again, maybe even dropping a notch or too before the next step up.
Nita’s book was a revelation. It introduced me to the concept of total freedom and joy in expressing yourself. Suddenly I was painting in huge washes letting colours freely flow together. Her central theme was to let the watercolour do the work for you and then add a few details to create a sense of realism. The biggest lesson I learned is that you can’t use too much water in a watercolour painting, and this has become my mantra.
Early experiments with this technique were, of course, total disasters and Merice must have wondered what I was playing at. Then one day this painting ‘happened’. Our dining room had become my studio, so I rushed into the lounge and called Merice – “Do you want to see something amazing?” She did and agreed that I had produced something special. This was a giant leap forward and I have integrated these ideas into my work ever since.
I could hardly wait to see it framed. My mum also lived in the village, so I took it round to show her too. She loved it and wanted to keep it. She always had to pay me something for the paintings and I let her have it for a nominal sum. It hung on her wall for the next fifteen years and I saw it every time I visited. When mum passed away, I got it back and was finally able to take a photograph so I can show it to you.
I have painted many similar scenes and used the same methods in many different subjects, but this painting really is so very special to me as it was the first.
Mum got it so quickly that I never had the chance to even give it a proper name. ‘Forest Study 1’ hardly does it justice, so perhaps you can help me out? If you have any ideas for a suitable title, please let me know.