‘The Road to Choupeau’ watercolour painting after Ian Potts (1936-2014)

The subject I opted for this week is based on one of a series of paintings he did entitled ‘The Road to Choupeau’. If you’d like to see the original painting however and read a little more about Ian Potts, I found some useful information on a website called VADS, which describes itself ‘The online resource for the visual arts’.

Here is some quick work in progress shots that I hope will show the different stages:

To summarise the steps, I first did an all over wash, starting with Raw Sienna across the middle of the painting, then allowing a mix of French Ultramarine and Cobalt Blue run into the Raw Sienna mix. The Raw Sienna mix was then brought down into the foreground and then it was all left to dry thoroughly. I then applied the masking fluid (shout out to my new found favourite masking fluid: Vallejo), again leaving this to dry completely.

Next up was the distant horizon, and then gradually working down from the horizon line into the foreground. As this was drying, I put in the first wash into the mass of trees. For this, I used a brush that I rarely ever use, a flat, about ½ an inch wide. I used this mainly to mimic the type of brushstrokes I see in many of Ian Potts’ paintings. For the colours, it was a mish-mash of Ultramarine and Cobalt Blue along with Raw Sienna, Turner’s Yellow and Transparent Yellow. I gradually built the washes up, often allowing one brush stroke dry before applying the next. I was trying to control how different shades and tones of green ran together in some areas, but also left visible distinct brushstrokes in other areas.

Once this wash was completely dry, I repeated this process but this time working with a much stronger tone in both the tress and some of the foreground areas.

Again, this was left to dry, almost completely, before I realised that some of tone in the trees was perhaps a little too strong. As there was still a little bit of moisture in the paint, I pressed my finger and thumb into the paint to lift off some of the paint. This created a little more variety and texture into the foliage, as well as acting as a rather unique signature!

Once everything was dry, I took off the masking fluid and then, tree trunk by trunk, I gradually added in the remaining elements. There was a bit of to-ing and fro-ing at this point while I tried to get everything just as I wanted it. Finally, I put in the dark shadow across the foreground area, trying again to create a variety of colour and tone within the shadow area.

Here’s the finished painting:

The ‘Road to Choupeau’ after Ian Potts (1936-2014) by John Haywood

I have to confess that I’m really pleased with this painting. I particularly liked treating that mass of foliage from lots and lots of trees in such a bold and unfussy manner – and how this texture contrasts with the smooth graduated wash of the sky and the simplicity of foreground. I appreciate that this style and approach may not be to everyone’s liking, but I suppose that’s true of any painting!

As well as completing this effort, I also did a little more exploring and added a few more images to my Ian Potts’ Pinterest board, should anyone feel inclined to have a closer look:

The more I look at his work, the more I appreciate the skill in these paintings. I particularly like that while they are strongly figurative and representational, there are also elements of abstraction within each of the paintings. Similarly, in the application of the paint, there is a great combination of complete control and apparent spontaneity (I say apparent because it may all have been completely planned!)

I think compositionally, they are all particularly strong and dramatic, boldly painted and with real contrast. I’m really enjoying trying to immerse myself in someone else’s brilliance. I think it’s partly because I feel like I’m learning so much, and partly because it rather conveniently coincides with a particular lack of my own inspiration.

As time goes on, it’ll be really interesting to see whether any of what I’m learning now has any influence on my own work. In the meantime, I’m going to continue enjoying this little diversion.


This post was corrected following its publication on 13 February. My research led me to copy someone else’s error – incorrectly titling Ian Potts’ painting ‘The Road to Choupeaux’ and then lamenting that I couldn’t find anywhere by the name of Choupeaux!

Thanks to an eagle-eyed and much more knowledgeable reader than myself – it was pointed out to me that the place name is actually ‘Choupeau’. I was delighted then to not only find Choupeau, but to also find what I believe to be the exact location of this painting.

https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m18!1m12!1m3!1d721.1010452917544!2d-0.8365541637819114!3d46.2734654385223!2m3!1f284.5495207667726!2f69.32604087598253!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f35!3m3!1m2!1s0x4806cc03663cdba5%3A0xa05d394ebcbdc10!2sChoupeau%2C+17170+Saint-Jean-de-Liversay%2C+France!5e1!3m2!1sen!2suk!4v1550223874999″ width=”600″ height=”450″ frameborder=”0″ style=”border:0″ allowfullscreen>

Thoughts on ‘The Road to Choupeau’ watercolour painting after Ian Potts (1936-2014)

11 thoughts on “‘The Road to Choupeau’ watercolour painting after Ian Potts (1936-2014)”

  1. Pingback: Palm trees watercolour

  2. Pingback: Open road, France, watercolour

  3. I can see his influence but you’ve made the trees your own.

    I really like your use of masking fluid. I’m thinking I might get my bottle back out and start using it a bit. I’ve been off it for a few years and using painter’s tape, but now, seeing what you’re doing, I’m thinking I might get back to it. I still like the sharp edges of the tape that can make things pop, but now I’m liking the paint like masking that the fluid can provide.

    I do like that mass of foliage but for me, the real kicker of the is those shadows and that hint of foliage against the distant mountains. Really nicely done.

    1. Hi Mary and thanks so much for this – so pleased that you like this painting and glad that you’re not offended by my use of masking fluid! I think it’s still something that I’ll try to avoid as much as possible – but it’s nice to feel that I can use it sypathetically if needed! Thanks Mary

  4. Potts is good, isn’t he? I love the treatment of the foliage; so much more engaging that the side of dryish brush. It’s Cezanne rather than Wesson. it’s almost like a screen-print with layer upon layer and there is a beautiful rich dark blue-green in there which is followed through into the foreground shadow – I’d be mixing with Perylene Green. The crispness of the tree-trunks also works beautifully in this painting; he’s even left the underlying blue wash showing in some of them. In other words, “I WOULD start from here if I were you!” And I see you have. And you’ve made a excellent job of it. It’s as if you’ve been able to instantly bolt a new and startling foreground effect on to your existing fluency with washes and backgrounds and it’s very very effective. Now we just need to see you do it with your own motif instead of borrowing directly from Potts. I look forward to next week…

    1. Hi Rob and thanks so much for this, I really appreciate these comments. I’ve been struggling about how much I consciously try to paint like Ian Potts, versus a rather more tenuous just allowing myself to be influenced by his approach. Your comments make me feel a little more emboldened to embrace this approach more wholeheartedly than I might otherwise have done! You’re quite right, that the acid test will be applying this to my own motif. Feeling enthused by Potts, not to mentioned being inspired by the beautiful weather today, I did interrupt my cycle to work to take some photographs that I tried to ‘see as Pott’s style paintings’. I’m already committed to doing one more direct borrowing from Potts, but hope to soon start moving back towards my own motifs. It’s great because I’m feeling inspired to do something new of my own for the first time in a month or so! Thanks so much Rob – this has all been really helpful and encouraging!

  5. I agree that copying another artist’s painting can be a real learning experience. It helps to get into the person’s mind and understand his way of aproaching/thinking. I’ve been spending time this week doing similar painting, doing small tests of color mixes and working out why painting my hillside woods has not worked…but working to death a small painting, trying different things. It worked! Not frame-worthy but a real leaning experieence! Tell me more re Vajello please! I have tried several brands and have big problems wll all of them! What form is Vajello? bottle with fine point? or do you have to use a brush to paint it on? Any other points about it? I generally avoid using it and think it more often than not screams ‘you used masking!’ I found that for trees I have used clear packing tape like a stencil with success and guache for smaller lines or white pens.
    You did a good job here for sure!

    1. Thanks so much for this Margery and, I must first apologise and correct myself! The masking fluid I’ve been using is called Vallejo, not Vajello! (I’ll update the blog later!) The one I’m using comes in a bottle and is called ‘Liquid Mask’. I’ve been applying it with an old sable blend brush, making sure to clean it properly afterwards. What’s I like about it is its fluidity. It’s quite thin so you can apply it quite expressively and even get some nice ‘dry brush’ texture. Another reader has also recommended using masking fluid in conjunction with some washing up liquid (dipping your brush into an egg cup of washing up liquid) intermittently between dipping into the masking fluid, which is definetly worth experimenting with. I agree that paintings usually scream ‘you used masking fluid’ in a bad way – but I feel that it is possible to use it wisely and well and to good effect, but it might just take quite a bit of practice. Really pleased that you like this effort though – it’s certainly one of my favourite paintings of late! Thanks again Margery, all the best

    1. Aha, yes, that would do it! I wonder where I picked up the ‘x’ from!? Right, I’m off to google maps for another look now! (and I may have to re-edit this entire post!) – Thanks for putting me right Rob, much appreciated!

    2. Hi Rob, just wanted to follow up on this to let you know that I’ve updated the post and, thanks to you, think I’ve even been able to pinpoint this location of this exact view (I’ve put a link to in in the post!) Thanks again Rob, much appreciated

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