travel sketchbook – Oswald West State Park, Oregon


I’m just back from a great “camping” trip down on the Oregon Coast (not exactly camping, if it’s in a trailer, right?).

I spent a day down at Short Sand Beach, in Oswald West State Park, taking photos and painting little watercolour studies. After spending way too long on a larger, fussy painting the day before, I realised that if I just did littler versions, and focused on getting the general feeling of the place down, I might be able to loosen up a bit. The studies are 4 7/8″ x 3 3/8″.

I was really inspired by David Dunlop‘s 10 and 2 minutes watercolour videos (last two videos on that page – but the others are recommended watching too), and am trying to work toward loosening up my painting to that extent, and focussing on getting the feeling of the place, rather than being tied to what is really in front of me. I have a long, long way to go, and I still get really hung up on trying to render details in a scene that I find especially beautiful, to the detriment of the overall painting.

Case in point – the last sketch I did in Oswald West State Park was of Short Sand Stream. The highlights in the water were the most beautiful yellow, making it look as if melted gold was pouring down between impossibly bright green rocks. I got way too caught up in that, and the result was a confusing, muddy mess, and a complete failure. When I got home and scanned the sketches, I took the piece into photoshop and dropped in a few spots of white, and immediately realised what I needed to do to fix the study. I got out an exacto blade, and scratched away the paint, and suddenly had a little stream, where before there was just mud. None of these highlights actually existed in real life, but they were really necessary to the sketch. Suddenly it became one of may favourite sketches of the day. Now that I don’t have the scene in front of me, I can see other places where a well-placed flick of shadow would help further, but I think I’ll leave that to another sketch based on this study. Hopefully at some point, I’ll be able to edit on location. It’s an interesting journey in training myself to actually follow through on the question “what’s important here?, what should I leave out?”



The rest of the studies are exercises in making marks and trying to leave them alone. They are all posted here, in the sketch section of my website.


Back in June, I visited the Brandywine Museum of Art in Pennsylvania, which houses a wonderful collection of N.C, Andrew, and Jamie Wyeth works. I was really interested to see Andrew Wyeth’s paintings in person, having only seen them printed in books. His watercolours were especially intriguing – what can’t be conveyed properly in print is how rough they are, covered in slashes and dashes of paint, and how aggressively he has attacked his paper. He has rubbed and scraped the surface, sometimes to the extent that he scratched holes right through the paper. It was a revelation to me, and I really wish that photography was allowed of the works, because I would have loved to have taken some detail photos.