Very few scenes in the countryside happen to be exactly as we would wish them to be when we are about to paint them - a little jigging around with the composition is usually necessary. In the photograph of the Meon Valley in winter shown below, there are a number of basic changes that can be made before beginning to paint. Study the scene for a few minutes and consider what you might do to improve the way the main elements hang together.
The placid stream reflected warmer colours as the afternoon wore on, while the constant coming and going of the birdlife enlivened the scene. It cried out to be sketched and with such lovely, delicate colours I plumped for a watercolour sketch. The first thing that struck me was the direction of the stream: it would be much improved if it led into the picture and not to one side as it does here. That, in fact is what the stream actually did, but within the confines of a photograph I couldn't show this.
While I sometimes include telephone poles, here they simply add clutter, so I left them out for a cleaner tree-line. Quite a bit of simplifying was necessary, firstly in the sky - although the sky is quite washed out, in reality there were a great many small clouds, so I reduced these to one simple line of dark cloud; secondly the foreground demanded a broad-brush approach, eliminating most of the clumps of grass. I also warmed up the sky and associated reflection in the water.
You can see my response in the watercolour sketch in the June issue of Leisure Painter magazine, on page 26, in an article on painting placid water. The July issue will include my article on painting turbulent water, followed in August by one on painting summer landscapes, and how to cope with all those greens. Why not visit the magazine's painting community at http://www.painters-online.co.uk/