A Visit to the Moelwyns

Virtual travel is so pleasant! In real life, I’m not much of a traveler at all. I much prefer staying home, playing in my art studio, and living a quiet life. With the world at my fingertips through the internet, I can quickly and easily go wherever I want, no passport required.

As part of my 100-day creative adventure, I recently visted the Moelwyns, a mountain range in Snowdonia. The range is more correctly known as Moelwynion, which I believe is a Welsh word for hills.Β 

Aubrey Phillips has this watercolor included in Watercolour Painting with Aubrey Phillips:

Aubrey Phillips Moelwyns (2)
Light Over the Moelwyns – Aubrey Phillips

My objective for the project was to re-create this watercolor. I began by making a quick sketch to look at shapes and values. I then drew the basic points on my paper — marking the horizon line and vaguely indicating some trees in the foreground.

Here is my completed version of the painting:

Moelwyns - JLK (2)


I laid in the sky first using pale reds and blues, later adding more blue to the upper right. Obviously my techniques and my style differ from Phillips. I then moved to the foreground and washed in a burnt sienna — doing it a bit haphazardly. That’s how Phillips work appears to me. I haven’t quite figured out how to do it.

I was working on damp paper, so after those initial washes, I set it aside to dry. I was flabbergasted — and dismayed — to find a huge bloom in the middle of the page the next morning. I hoped the mountain area might hide it. As you can see, it didn’t completely cover it.

On the second day of the project, I practiced mixing my own version of burnt sienna, making it from red, yellow, and blue — with a bit more of the red. For fun, I also mixed a raw sienna, again using red, yellow, and blue, but with a bit more of the yellow. I used these to once more go over the foreground area, trying again for that haphazard look I see in the Phillips painting.

On the third day, I mixed a color for the mountain range, using blue, burnt sienna, and a touch of a blue-green. I was really hoping I could disguise the ugly bloom, but no such luck. I painted in the mountain range, was generally pleased by what I’d done, and instead of letting it all dry again, I decided to finish up the foreground.

I added more green and brown to my mountain color and tried to put in the darker values, using my initial sketch as a guide. The results, I felt, were mediocre. Certainly it could have been worse, but for me, the whole image is so vague that I can’t feel any real depth in the painting.

Another thing I disliked — when I looked at my painting and then at the Aubrey Phillips painting — was that my foreground was very pink. All that red in my self-mixed burnt sienna, I suppose. I liked the color, but I didn’t like the color. In other words, the color was fine, but not for this particular painting. So, I took a pale yellow wash and glazed the entire foreground area.

For comparison purposes, here are both paintings, side by side:

I captured the essence of the painting. I think the mountains are fairly well shaped, and overall I have the general idea. What I don’t have are the variations in values that creates depth and interest. My skies are not as dramatic as those in the Phillips painting, although I don’t really care for those “haphazard” brush strokes he makes. They’re fine for the foreground; I don’t like them in the sky.

I could probably do more on this painting. I could work on it tomorrow, trying to add more shadow to the mountain ranges to give more impressions of light and dark, but I don’t think I’ll go back to it. I think I’m ready to move on and visit someplace else in the world.

moelwyns-1Oh, after finishing the painting, I browsed online to learn a little more about the Moelwyns. I found this image. The photo seems to have been taken from about the same vantage point as Aubrey Phillips used for his painting.

Maybe for another project for another time, I’ll paint the Moelwyns again, using this photo as a reference.

It was a nice place to visit, even if I never really left the comforts of home. I have my own homemade picture postcard —Β  albeit it a rather large one — and I’ve learned a bit about geography as well as watercolor art. I think that makes it a very successful trip.



  1. Thanks for the serendipity of a morning field trip! I like the feel of the painting, and that your version embraces the more rugged and pointy qualities rather than softening the edges of the hilltop. Feels honest with presence.

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      1. πŸ™‚ Understood the struggle. Watercolor requires a deep letting go, and literally to water color,, flow out the paint, often on the 1st pass. Watercolor is from my perspective the least forgiving media, and I consider that one of it most wonderful qualities. It’s as if it is as honest as Nature itself with motives, and lots of life teaming throughout it.

        Keep up the solid work. Do 10,000 things once, and one is an annoying know-it-all. Do one thing 10,000 times and most likely the immersion produces ablution… to wonderfully watercolor YOU. πŸ™‚

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      2. I’m doing the 30 x 30 Direct Watercolor Challenge this month, and I’ll follow along with World Watercolor Month in July. I’m also doing my “abstract expression” watercolors every morning, so I’m giving myself lots of play-time. Oil painting will always be my first love, but I’d like to gain some proficiency with watercolors, too. I’m finding it quite a challenge.

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    1. Thanks, Janet. My next “visit” to Wales wasn’t so successful. It will be posting later in the month. I’m looking forward to taking a virtual trip at your blog!

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      1. Just keep doing what you are doing….it’s wonderful to watch your progress and as I have just expressed in another comment, your enthusiasm….We will go on the VIRTUAL trip to Wales in July:)

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      2. I am so looking forward to the trip. πŸ™‚ I have my virtual bags packed and my passport handy LOL. I love traveling via internet. It’s so convenient.

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      3. We’re here in the Midwest US… lots of prairie to paint. In fact, one of our art groups is doing a plein aire paint tomorrow at Snowball Hill Prairie, a Missouri conservation site. I’m not going to try painting, but I am taking a sketchbook and camera. I know I will learn a lot just from watching how others set up and approach plein air painting. It’s supposed to be a beautiful day… a bit warm, but no rain. My husband is going too, and we’re really looking forward to the “field trip”.

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      4. The weather is perfect this morning for a little field trip. We’re waiting a while before we go out to the prairie. I want to give everyone time to get there and get set up so I can see how “real artists” go about plein air painting. I’ll take my sketchbook, make a few drawings, and I’ll take photos, too.

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    1. I’m glad you like it. It turned out better than many of my watercolor projects so far. As for the different hour or season… anything there is purely unintentional LOL. I’m learning to take those factors into consideration with my oil painting, but everything I do with watercolor is completely unplanned. I was mixing my own colors when I did this painting, so that accounts for the differences, I think. Everything in watercolor is one big experiment for me. πŸ™‚

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      1. I played with watercolor about 4 years ago when I was first learning to draw and paint. I wasn’t good at it at all, so I put it aside and moved on to other things. I think I have a slightly better foundation to build upon now, so here I am again trying to make sense of watercolor. Every time I think I’m making progress, I turn out a few more disasters and realize how little I know. We’ll just keep experimenting, won’t we! Maybe we’ll eventually figure it out. πŸ™‚

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