JOYFUL PLACE – Original Watercolor

 A Joyful Place, Original Watercolor by  Woody Hansen TITLE: A Joyful Place – Original watercolor by Woody Hansen, 15″ x 22″ To see a framed version of this painting or to learn more, please click image.


A Joyful Place, exists in an area nearby, yet far, far away, in the hippocampus, a storehouse of huge amounts of personal information, both useful and worthless. Simply put, A Joyful Place, exists only in the gray matter that houses my imagination.

 A Joyful Place, starts its journey in an early morning “Free Friday” outdoor session along Sacramento’s American River Parkway. In the beginning there is no preliminary pencil drawing, no preliminary value plan, nor color scheme. I face a blank sheet of white, 140 pound, dry, half-sheet (15 x 22) cold press watercolor paper, clipped to a board at each of four corners.


A combination of brushes are used during the creation of A Joyful Place, including a three inch, one and a half inch, a one inch, a quarter inch, Webb Liner, and a medium sized round brush. With an exception or two, work progresses from larger to smaller brushes.

Without a subject in mind, A Joyful Place, begins by randomly selecting a color and using that color to start painting imaginary shapes.   Working with light, transparent values, the goal is the creation of an interesting, non-objective design, or marks on paper. At this point the thought process is focused entirely on the positive and negative design inside the 15 x 22 inch rectangle.

As A Joyful Place, evolves, shape and value consideration is similar to chess in that one attempts to think several moves ahead, while keeping in mind that each value has a direct bearing on the next, and the next, and the one after that, etc. Thought is given to creating pleasing shapes of various values and sizes.

The outdoor portion of what will eventually become A Joyful Place, ends in an unfinished, unresolved state, the same morning in which it begins. The painting is set aside to dry in the warm, morning shade, and another painting begins. Then, to beat the heat, it’s back to the studio environment shortly before noon.


The following Wednesday, A Joyful Place (still untitled), is selected as a class demonstration.  As the painting progresses, a suggestion of a landscape becomes apparent.  I like to think of this as the painting “talking” to me, telling me where it wants to go. So, with the Law of Parsimony in mind, I abandon non-objectivity, and begin working toward the suggestion of a lush, landscape.

A Joyful place (before), watercolor by Woody Hanssen
Photo courtesy of Linda Sauer

With much of the light an middle values indicated, I feel a need for the addition of calligraphy as a way of further defining and describing shapes that are recognizable as flora, while leaving a somewhat restful area in the middle of the composition.

A Joyful Place, Original Watercolor by Woody Hansen

Using a permanent, felt, black ink pen, the calligraphy of A Joyful Place, is done quite rapidly, while moving somewhat randomly throughout the painting. Prior to beginning the calligraphy, I decide to heighten the use of overlapping planes by using a fine point tip for the middle and background and a broader tipped pen for the foreground.

As an aside, I’ll mention that I use two types of felt tipped permanent, black ink pens, a fine point and a broad (chisel point. I also use a broad felt pen, and brush to apply watercolor line of various hues I use the tools separately, and sometimes in combination. I usually favor the felt tipped pens when I want to apply the line quickly and with a maximum amount of directional freedom.

To my way of thinking, the nature of the felt tip encourages rapid change of direction while maintaining uniformity of line. The brush tends to encourage a slower approach, while offering a larger variety of line quality. Of course hand pressure and speed of movement alters line quality regardless of pen or brush. In short, I try to use the tool of choice for the job at hand.

After the calligraphy comes a final adjustment of compositional shape, value, color, and one of the fun parts of painting, that of determining an eventual title.


I get a happy feeling from this painting. Oddly, a favorite, Ray Bradbury movie, Something Wicked This Way Comes, comes to mind. However, with the replacement of one word the title might be, Something Happy This Way Comes, but I like to keep painting titles short. How about, A Happy Place? No, that title already exists. How about changing the word, “happy,” to “joyful?” Okay, the title becomes A Joyful Place. Score two, for the Law of Parsimony!

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