Getting Lost In The Forest

Day 13 - Toucan Rainforest Watercolor - Doodlewash

Once, several years ago, I experienced my first and only trip to a rainforest while visiting Puerto Rico. It was an amazing experience and it felt like I’d been transported to another place and time. I’ve since always wanted to travel to see other rainforests, but that opportunity hasn’t presented itself yet. So, as ever, I’ll just have to enjoy the idea of visiting a toucan via my sketchbook. When I was a kid, I used to wander through the tree-covered acreage of my grandparent’s farm. This wasn’t called a forest, but instead was just referred to as “the woods.” The fun part about visiting the woods was slowing looking back to see the world I knew disappear, only to be replaced with a strange and wonderful new world full of mystery. The deeper I’d go the more and more I found myself thrilled with possibilities and excitement. Sure, I’d return covered in bug bites, but that was a small price to pay for all of the fun. I remember stopping to examine things more closely, kneeling or partially climbing a tree to get a better look. In those moments I was focused and thrilled by the littlest things I found.

Today, in my mind’s eye, I often put that image of little me enjoying the woods into my brain. It helps remind me of the me I’d prefer to be, rather than the addled adult I often become. It’s very hard to achieve a feeling of true calm as an adult. Our brains are filled with all sorts of things and there’s so much noise there. But each time I close my eyes and put that image of me staring at a stream or carefully watching a bird staring back at me, I find that mental space I adore once again. It’s one without all of the noise and confusion. It’s that part of my mind that I used all of the time when I was a kid wandering through those trees. And it’s the one I turn to as an adult to help me relax and enhance creative thinking. Sometimes, I can ever hear a stream trickling nearby or the soft sound of birds in the distance. Perhaps that’s also why birds often come to mind as in the sketch for today. And toucans are weird and wonderful creatures that always make me smile. And I’m rather envious of their rainforest lifestyle, even though I’m quite sure I wouldn’t survive a day there as anything more than a tourist.

Since I only have a little slice of time to sketch and paint each day, it can feel to me like my progress is moving slowly. I try little things as I can, like adding an extra branch in the background to this little doodlewash to suggest a bit more depth and environment, but there are so many things I’ve yet to try. Yet, when I’m painting, I’m in that zone I enjoyed as a kid. That timeless moment where I’m just happy to be there. And, that to me, feels like a gift each and every day. Any time you can take a moment to smile and enjoy life it’s the best moment of all. I realize now that my goal with all this has never changed on my journey and continues to be the same until this day. While others might have grand plans for where to take their art next, I’ve made the ridiculously simple promise to myself to just show up and paint each day. It’s not something amazing, and truly something that everyone on the planet can DO! And I hope I’ve inspired some others on this little green planet to DO just that. Taking a little break each day to sketch and paint, relishing in that childlike feeling of getting lost in the forest.

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About the Doodlewash

Da Vinci Paint Co.: Aureolin, Quinacridone Red, Leaf Green, Vermillion, Cobalt Turquoise, Terra Cotta, Indigo and Cobalt Blue. Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with black ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? Send me a note with a link to this post, and I’ll add it to my shop!
Day 13 - Toucan Rainforest Watercolor - Sketchbook Detail
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18 Comments
  1. Sandra Strait 10 months ago

    Charlie, your toucan is too cool! Ecuador has some of the longest lived people in the world. My brother used to hold retreats where people would meet up around 14,000 ft or so and hike from village to village to learn their health techniques. Most of the people lived by farming, and one of the ‘techniques’ was that if someone found a beautiful flower or extra large fruit – or just anything slight unusual – (s)he’d call out and everyone would gather around to see it. Then they would all kneel and give thanks to God for whatever wondrous thing it was. I suspect that right there was half the secret to longevity. They never lost their sense of wonder at everyday things.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 10 months ago

      Thanks so much, Sandra! 😃💕That’s the most awesome story EVER! I adore it! I DO think that was there mysterious secret. So simple and yet so perfect in the end.

  2. Lisa 10 months ago

    Most of the places I have lived in my life were surrounded by woods. I feel awkward without trees nearby. The woods is a place where I can practice stillness without even thinking about it. One of the most moving experiences of my life was a visit to Maraposa Grove a giant sequoias forest in Yosemite. The giant trees, the quiet, the way the sunlight filtered in, was all so awe inspiring. I was on the verge of tears the whole time I was there. If we humans, as a species, manage to decimate trees, as a species, maybe we deserve to go down with the ship. https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/mg.htm

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 10 months ago

      I agree… the woods are the best place ever! 😃💕 And sounds like you found one of the best places ever as well, Lisa. That sounds lovely. I’d love to visit one day… and yes… probably cry the entire time. 😊

  3. Sharon Nolfi 10 months ago

    LOVE your toucan! They are amazing-looking birds – comical and beautiful all rolled into one species. “The woods” of your childhood sound like the perfect place for adventure and discovery.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 10 months ago

      Thanks so much, Sharon! 😃💕 Yeah, I love these birds… they always make me giggle even though I find them incredibly tough to sketch! hehe

  4. LoriCtoo 10 months ago

    Ahhh, time spent outside as a kid was the best. It is sad to see that disappear these days. Toucan Sam looks pretty dapper! There’s a rainforest in Washington state on the Olympic penisula. Never been.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 10 months ago

      Yeah, that time outside as a kid was the best ever! 😃💕 And glad you liked toucan! You should totally visit that rainforest! Sounds awesome!

  5. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 10 months ago

    Your toucan is gorgeously painted, your increasing art skill evident. My family visited Puerto Rica when I was a kid, and we also tramped through a rain forest, probably the same one you visited. I remember more about hiking through Hawaii when I was even younger than I recall about Puerto Rico, but its poverty left a striking and desperate image with me. Now they are still suffering the effects of the hurricane from 2 years ago.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 10 months ago

      Thanks so much, Sharon! 😃💕 Thrilled you see improvement there! And yeah, it would be the same rainforest in Puerto Rico. It would have been very different to witness all of that as a child indeed.

  6. Mary Roff 10 months ago

    Wonderful Toucan! One of the things I miss most about our home in NY is the woods…10 acres of quiet beauty.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 10 months ago

      Thanks so much, Mary! 😃💕 Yeah…. 10 acres of quiet beauty sounds amazing!! I would miss it as well!

  7. Ellie 10 months ago

    Your toucan is wonderful – especially that angle of him looking over his shoulder! And truly, even though you say you make small progress in your painting, you certainly have achieved an amazing thing – inspiring thousands of us to stop every day and contemplate a Doodlewash and maybe even make a painting of our own. Thanks for taking us all with you as you have wandered through your forest, pointing out the delightful sights along the way. (I also love that you stop and meditate on the memory of the stream and forest. You’re brilliant, Charlie.)

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 10 months ago

      Thanks so much, Ellie! 😃💕 You made me blush! hehe😊 I’m so happy you enjoy the doodlewashes and musings. It makes me more fun to show up each day knowing people are still enjoying this little journey through the woods. 😉

  8. Tom 10 months ago

    You’re definitely progressing far better than I, Charlie! No worries there. Love the toucan.
    I visited a rainforest once. Well, it was a café, but beggars can’t be choosers! 😀
    I’m being pulled back to watercolour once again… I just need to make the time once more!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 10 months ago

      Aww thanks, Tom! 😃💕 hehe… and sounds like you went to my very first rainforest experience as well! lol Yay to being pulled back to watercolor!! Make that time… hehe… can’t wait to see what you’ll create!

  9. smzang 10 months ago

    OK Charlie, I gotta disagree, your art is uniquely you and beautiful and insightful
    and if someone set out to copy exactly what you did, right down to the last shade
    of green, it still wouldn’t have the soul of your work, but the wonderful thing about
    your art (aside from the fact that it is wonderful) is that it inspires others to create their
    own greatness and joy. that is something really special and so is the portrait of “Sam”.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 10 months ago

      Aww thanks, Sarah! 😃💕 And I’m thrilled you liked my little toucan! My hope in this entire journey was always to inspire others to join me. It gets harder all the time as social media gets less social, but I always hope to reach people!

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