Branch paintings

Jonathan Sainsbury - The Wren's Larder

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The Wren's Larder - branch, mosses and wren, watercolour and charcoal, image size approx 30 x 46 ins, in the Permanent Collection of the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum

I like branches for the shapes they make in a painting, leading the eye across the paper.  I like them as nature paintings because what they show are worlds that creatures inhabit, worlds within our world.  Often they are host to lichens, mosses and insects, as well as birds and animals.  By presenting a branch as the whole of a picture I can ask the viewer to cut out the rest of the landscape and focus on the creature’s world, that is also part of our own. 

Watercolour and charcoal is a medium I developed across my working life and I often use it for painting branches.  Charcoal works best for me on a large scale, which I find is good for representing birds and animals in their settings.  Charcoal goes down quickly on paper, tight and precise, then I smudge it for soft effects and to imply movement.  To the charcoal I add watercolour, in broad washes to suggest light, and as brush marks ,to describe colour and texture. 

Jonathan Sainsbury, watercolour and charcoal, blackbird, branch

Blackbird and Branch, watercolour and charcoal, 36 x 56 ins, 1998, private collection ©Jonathan Sainsbury