Does This Painting Need “More Sunshine”?

This painting has been in “pondering mode” for a few weeks now as I’ve contemplated where to take it, whether to go further into shadow with backlit trees (more true to the location in autumn) or “add more sunshine”.? I know, artistic license and all that, but the shadows of low autumnal sunshine is one of the beautiful things about this location; then again it was the single, bright yellow tree with its autumnal leaves which caught my eye that day.

Only certainties are that the painting is not where I want it to be (yet) and that I’m inhibited by how much I like parts of it, such as the yellow tree, the river stones at the bottom. What I suspect I’m going to do:

  • Deepen the darks, using perylene green and Prussian blue
  • Add some white-rippled water in the stream, on the left-hand edges of the rocks in the water and at the edge of the bank
  • Glaze over the sky to make it feel less disjointed, wiping off the paint where it goes over the tree trunks
  • Add “sunshine” to the trunks, river bank and stones, as if sunshine is coming from the top right

But perhaps I’ll contemplate it a little more first, and rather continue on some of my other works-in-progress.

Painting In Progress: The Little Yellow Tree
Work in Progress.
Size 1x1m.

69 Replies to “Does This Painting Need “More Sunshine”?”

    1. Thanks Rebecca!
      How about just a little bit of white splashy water to the left of the rocks to enhance the sense of the river flowing…? Over where the light blue splashes/ripples are, but less of it.

  1. NO! leave it alone–I like the feel it depicts of serenity to me. It is done. no more playing with it!

    1. Thanks Barbara! I certainly won’t fiddle with it, that’s a recipe for disaster! It’ll be something definite or nothing at all. At the moment I’m thinking add some white splashes in water and then ponder again.

  2. After mentally fishing this spot in the stream and not seeing any turbulence or other fishy places I moved my gaze upward to the trees. I liked the sunlight on the leaves but felt if the sun was coming from the upper right it was striking the wrong side of the trunks on the right side of the small tree. I’d add a little more to get some interest.

    1. I’ve not seen fishers on this stretch of stream, only herons fishing where it runs into the sea. πŸ™‚
      The sun direction…too true, thank you!

  3. Hi Marion,

    To my eye, your work is almost finished; however, I might add just a bit more reflective color to the image of the tree in the water–just enough to increase the highlights. Also, bringing just a tad more of the orange/ochre (?) in the larger tree trunks down into the reflected image would add to the richness of your palette.

    Thanks for the opportunity to provide input. I work primarily in pen and ink and colored pencil, so your works provide me with additional insights into my media.

    1. There’s golden ochre on the trunks, but can’t remember what the other red-brown was. I usually have the tubes I’ve been using separated out from my stash, but tidied up recently and upset my system.

    1. Like this idea; would also give a sense of sunlight on them. Another option would be to green moss — if the water’s been low in this river I know these rocks have moss on them, which would give me a bright green in the foreground. I could then echo the green in a more muted tone on the bank. Too many options, or perhaps too much overthinking of it!

    2. I do agree with Gina – I tried to convert it into B&W and these “spots” are missing to make it perfect

  4. I think its beautiful, I agree with Marion, a little bit of moving water in the rocks. The fact that you?re not sure it’s done, makes me feel that maybe you feel something is missing, I would go with that feeling with just a touch nothing big, because it is beautiful as it is. No big changes (just my opinion). Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks Rossana! It’s not quite where I want it to be, but I’m struggling to decide exactly what I think will sort it out, which is why I’ve not done anything yet. It’s very interesting reading everyone’s opinions; helps me see it with fresher eyes and reassess it.

  5. I don’t know if it needs more sunshine or not, but I really enjoy reading how you think about your paintings as you work on them. That’s very helpful.

    1. I find some of the tree reflections too strong, too dominant visually, and prefer the ones to the left that are more suggested than definite. More layers in the water will help hide these verticals, but can’t do those until I decide what’ll be on the bank and thus the reflected colours. Somewhat of a Catch 22… but again I think that addiong white ripples first, then reassess, might be the way to go.

  6. I love your little tree…….it’s a bright spot in the drabness…..I would work around that……..who cares where the sunshine is coming………..where does it “feel” like it should be coming from?

    Yes…..more sunshine……..if i squint my eyes, all the colors seem the same except for the little tree. who knows? Maybe the little tree is the source of light?

    Just a thought

    1. Tonally it is very mid-tone overall, except for the yellows of the tree and to some extent the sky behind. I think it wants some of this yellow hitting the larger tree trunks too, and a touch on the rocks as Gina suggested.

  7. Again……squinting (sp) the eyes…………the water and the background trees are just that……background. the little tree is all by itself…….alon, but brave and mighty….let her shine!

    1. Thanks Marian! I do like what I’ve done, it just isn’t yet quite where I feel I want it to be when I compare it to my visual memory of the location. But liking what I’ve done is also inhibiting, that “will I muck it up” fear…

  8. Now sure if I am too late to comment, but I think it could use a tad bit more light – not sure where though? and I like the foreground of this a lot! πŸ™‚

    1. Never too late to comment, be it days, weeks or months after a blog is posted! You can’t see it in the photo, but there’s texture paste in this painting, applied with a wide stiff brush, which adds to the contrast between river and rocks.

      1. oh thanks – and I think I can see a tad bit of it – hope you have a great ending to your year – πŸ™‚ – happy new year!

  9. What?! Do ALL paintings HAVE to look SO CHEERY?! No… I LOVE THIS, leave it alone. If anything…a little glaze, but no, it is BEAUTIFUL and SPEAKS volumes. Thanks for letting it talk to us~

    1. Thank you! And indeed, not all paintings need be cheerful and bright. I can see a version of this scene done with strong darks, at dusk or even in fullmoon. But, reality is that there’s more chance of selling a sunny day painting than a dark stormy day and I’ve a living to make, so commercial considerations have to be taken into account, while not for every painting, certainly for some. The way around this is of course to do both versions, sunshine and dark.

  10. I’m almost afraid to comment being that painting styles and preferences are so personal. But. . .
    In general it looks to me like the sky behind those trees can be made lighter which would give you more room to play with the “shadows” of the trees on the water and logically lighten the water close to the shore and would indicate that the unseen sky above the scene is indeed bright enough to make that little tree as “sunny” as it is.

    Thank you, Marion. I experience any of your communications as a gift that I always enjoy.


    1. Styles and preferences are personal, but so is the way we each see a painting and that’s why comments are so helpful. It helps me see the wood from the trees πŸ™‚

  11. I like it as it is. It can be improved as reflections of the trees are too clear and might be “distorted by water flow”. Still it is great just as it is.

    1. You read my mind Natalya, the tree reflections were going to have another layer or two of flowering water over them, but then I hesitated and got contemplating too many possibilities… sometimes happens if there’s too long a break in painting a canvas.

    1. My initial intention was for the yellow tree and its reflection to be the focal point, but I think it’s lost amidst all the midtone at the moment.

    1. It’s a location I visit regularly and changes with the seasons, but on that day it was all about the yellow tree… and my painting should be!

  12. It is quite lovely + but if it was my painting I would pick up my brush + yes, deepen some of the blue shadow “puddles” + then add various warm violets. Mostly in the top part of the water area + a bit in the scrubby bushes…also amongst the trees some dibs + dabs of orange… Personally I like to take a painting I’m working on in the studio out of the studio into the house. I’ll put it somewhere unexpected (but very visible…not in a closet or anything). Then when I come across it suddenly I get a “first impression” of it + usually will know almost immediately what it needs. Back to the studio it goes… It’s quite interesting posting a work in progress + asking other artists to comment on how they would change it. I may try it on my blog if that’s okay with you?

    1. Warm violets… mmm… would work well with the lemony yellows. Thank you for the suggestion! I do at times take paintings and put them elsewhere so I see them in different lights, but at 1x1m this is too big for those spots (which have to be out of studio cat reach!). And yes, do it on your own blog! It’s really helpful and interesting getting other people’s comments on a WIP. Or if you prefer a smaller audience, another spot is my Facebook Painting Group.

  13. It looks so peaceful. Maybe define the banks a little more. Other than that, I like it the way it is.

  14. When I am painting I often think of things I read on the website of your previous incarnation.

    One comment in particular comes to mind frequently. it was ‘When you think you’ve finished a painting make the darks darker and the lights lighter before you clean your brushes. Is it your own wisdom you need in this lovely painting?

  15. I like the top half of the painting very much. I tend to agree with Natalya regarding the reflections of the trunks in the water. They’re too strong and could be blurred a bit. Over all, however, you’re really headed in the right direction.

    1. I’d painted the tree trunks dark with the intention of having several layers of moving water over them, but then got diverted. The ones on the right I think in particular are still to strong. Thank you! It’s helped me see it all with fresher eyes.

  16. I agree about the direction of the sun, but the light could also be coming from the lower left side with maybe a wee bit more light…only a wee bit!
    HOWEVER…the scene has a fragile mystery about it just as it is. The little tree as its focal point appears to be holding a happy secret. I love it

    I’ve been a subscriber for years at “”.

    1. Thanks Deanna! While I haven’t written as much this past year since stopping writing for, my plans for 2015 include starting art projects again with supporting articles (which are all listed here).

    2. Beatiful painting need a little more light on letft side not so much in middle but very beautiful

      1. Thanks Rebecca! Very interesting to me that you see it as needing light towards the left. The location has a tall hill to the left that cuts off the sun until it’s risen a fair way, but there’s a stage in a painting’s life when it’s time to do what’s right for the painting and not the location that sparked the painting. Mmm…

  17. I would like to see the values of the sky and trees behind the trees lighter. Right now, the darkness of the sky stops me from entering the picture – it seems to be a wall instead of the distant sky. Lightning the sky and the behind trees, would add depth and lessen the sense of detail. The water is lovely; I hope the spirit stays that way. If you lighten the sky and the behind trees, than the cast shadows on the water need a likewise change. If you add the sense of rapids, that the cast shadows need to be broken shapes following the rapids. But now I need to ask; are you painting a design or a scene from nature?

    1. It’s a scene from nature, a nearby location that I visit regularly, but my aim is to paint my memory and experience of the spot on this day, not the exactitude. I think part of the problem is that I changed my mind while painting it, then hesitated and took a break from it; now I’ve got to decide which of the options open to me to follow, and focus back that day with the yellow little tree rather than memories of other visits.

    1. Thanks Janice! It’s a tough situation when I feel a painting still needs something but others like it as it is. Usually I then turn it to the wall and reassess in a few months, but this is one for my solo exhibition next Easter so I need to decide a bit faster…!

  18. I have to agree withe Della’s comments. I would tone down the bright lone schrub,it looks to bright and isolated,and put some light at random,throughout the trees’ on trunks,branches,ground and on the water,that would give the appearance of gaps in the overhead tree foliage,and add life to the woodland scene.
    Have a Happy New Year

    1. Ah, but it was bright and isolated, a little patch of autumnal brightness amidst bigger trees that had already shed all their leaves… toning it down would work, but it’d change the whole painting away from what caught my eye at the time. At the moment I’m still determined to see if I’m up to the challenge of the scene πŸ˜‰

  19. Hello Marion, I get stuck like this too. I think your painting is lovely. If feel a painting is not quite expressing what I want I take a photo of it ( usually my cell phone , I use it as a second opinion on my paintings,and use the black and white filter on it. If I like the way the darks and lights harmonize with each other , I usually set it aside and let it alone. If not I will work with it cautiously adding deeper darks to make the lights pop, or visa versa. Taking black and white cell phone photos along the way.
    May I suggest if you are happy with your lights and don’t want to fuss with them maybe some warmer darks in the foreground water and reflections might please you.
    As an audience of your painting it is pleasing to my eye . You are the artist only you can decide what you want to express .
    Sometimes I just walk away from it and revisit at a later date after I have let go of anxious feelings.

    1. Thanks Lisa! I’ve added another tick in the “leave it alone” column.
      I made the mistake of converting a photo into B&W in Photoshop Elements… it gives me five different versions of B&W, all of which told me different things and thus gave even more options. πŸ˜‰

  20. To me, the little tree appears to sit centrally in the width of the canvas, so my eye is taken there, but does not necessarily flow around the entire canvas. There is also a similarity in the background trees’ sizes and colouring. I do not see any undergrowth. Is there some that I’m not seeing?
    The reflections of the trees read to me as a solid black, but that may not be the case. I’m wondering if more colour in your reflections might make them appear more dimensional?
    I’ve enjoyed reading all the opinions on this painting, and seeing how each of us sees it differently. I look forward to what comes next.
    Thank you for sharing your art. I learn so much.

    1. Thanks Suztats! It is most intriguing and helpful reading what different people see and feel, and I really appreciate it!

      At this location there is very little undergrowth, a few bits of bracken and grass, which gets flattened under autumnal leaves. The reflections were done with Prussian blue and perelyne green, which I tend to use rather than black; I agree they are a tad too strong and uniform.

  21. Leave it be. We tend to over-think our paintings and don’t know when to put the brush down. I love it the way it is. If you aren’t happy with this one, do another one but please leave this one as is. It’s a lovely painting.

    1. Thanks Claudia, another tick in the “leave it alone” column πŸ™‚ And too true, that it’s best to down brushes when overthinking mode gets going, because that’s when things get overworked far too easily!

    1. I agree, they need another layer or two of rippled water and reflections over them, or perhaps a semi-opaque glaze to knock them back a bit.

  22. Marion;
    I love your work! The only thing I might consider doing is darkening the edges on either side to bring the viewer to the center and the sunshine.

    1. Interesting thought, which instantly generated a visual imagine in my brain as at this location the left-hand side is often in the shadow of a tall hill… Mmm…

  23. A beautiful painting, but yes, I would put in a bit more sun — on the yellow tree (make it snap forward), on the reflection and on the first rock on the right….
    You have had so many comments, an embarassment of riches!!

    1. I’m thrilled with all the comments — it’s very interesting and most helpful! I’m left feeling that when I put this back on my easel I’ll resolve it!

  24. Dear Marion,
    Your explanation about how central the yellow tree is to the meaning of the painting helped me to better understand what you were getting at. Then, like an elaborate setting for a precious jewel, the role of the rest of the painting is to somehow point to that tree.


    1. ” like an elaborate setting for a precious jewel, the role of the rest of the painting is to somehow point to that tree.
      — That’s it! Thanks for putting it into words for me! Perfect analogy.

      If it weren’t a location I visit regularly and which hadn’t inspired other paintings (eg Summer Glow and sketches, then the yellow tree would be less significant, but on this day it was so striking, stood out as if it were wearing a bright party dress.

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