Sunday, October 24, 2010

Painting Water

....painting in progress.
....and no, I'm no expert at painting water at all. I do think at times I do it good enough to get away with it and each time I feel it gets better than my last job of it. The water scene here is of a fishing boat down at Santa Barbara harbor. This boat has so much character that I just was dying to paint it....God knows I've taken enough reference photos of it. I loved the bright sun here and the water reflections. That water was lower in value but I wanted a more high key painting and decided to lighten the boat hull shadows instead of sticking to the reference photo.

Painting water always looks so daunting at first. I've found that calm waters are actually a blast to paint if it is done in just looks daunting when you view it complete. Some artists will paint it totally different but this is just my method. What I do is break down the colors to the "Base" colors and then the colors that will overlap those Base colors. Lastly, I will paint in specks of white as the suns brightest reflections. Above I have began to block in some dark shadows along the hull and started adding my initial Base colors.

Below, I finish up the base colors, the cool grey and the warmer grey as well as the sky reflections and shed colors. If you look at calm waters you will see these base need to paint these first and then add all of your detail colors overplapping them. This method is just an orderly way of painting water that at first may look confusing to an artist. It's just a matter of breaking the parts down and assigning some priority.

Now the details are added. This has to be the most fun step of painting water. You use what you see as a reference and please remember that your photo or actual location image is only a can get as creative as you want and there is no need to paint every single detail or paint these details just as they are in front of you or in your ref photo. I've left some things out, added some things, changed colors to what I wanted or embellished what colors were's my painting anyways.

I'm still working on this painting so nothing here is concrete. As soon as these colors a dry enough I'll add my white specks of "sunlight" reflections to give it some sparkle. I think it is all headed in the right direction though and I'm getting close to calling it done...a day or two still.

So, that's it. Paint in the base colors, add detail colors and then a few white (or close to white) highlights to finish it up. This is a method that works for me....give it a try sometime and see what you come up with.


Mick Carney said...

Really helpful and instructive post. You consistently underestimate your ability to paint water and the results just as consistently prove you wrong. Your boats and water work are very high quality.

This is a lovely piece already and amongst many of the things I like I really enjoy the little traces of rust on the side of the boat.

Ron Guthrie said...

Hi Mick,
I think the water here looks pretty good but I'm still learning each time I paint water. I'd like to get much better at rougher water like crashing water on rocks or your general surf at the beach. Harbor waters are much easier. Thanks for the kind comments though Mick...I appreciate them.

Adding the rust was just a bunch of fun. There was some there but I added a bit more. I was gone for 2 days but will get back on the painting and hopefully finish it tomorrow on Tuesday. Dying to complete it....was thinking about the entire time I was away!
Funny how a painting can get your attention like that.

Marian Fortunati said...

Thank you for such a clear and beautiful demonstration and explanation... You make it sound easy and your painting is terrific. I know, however that it is FAR FAR FAR from easy.
BTW... do you let the dry base dry before you try layering in the other colors??

Ron Guthrie said...

Hi Marian,
The boat is filled with so many details and takes forever for me to paint so the water is a welcome relief. The water is saved for last so I'm usually in a great mood by the time I get there because I know I'm getting close to finishing the painting, hahaha. Painting the water is like the carrot out in front of me so I can't wait to get to it...just have to finish the boat first!

I don't like to paint on dry paint so I like to let the base colors get "tacky" (sticky) and then paint in the details. Some of the new layers of color are fine if they blend in with the base colors at the edge but because the base colors are tacky they don't blend out of control. I add the white highlights last but by then the paint is getting really tacky to just about dry in a lot of places.
If it was in a timeline the base colors at morning....the details in the afternoon...the highlights the next morning.

I mix copal in my paints so it tacks up quick. If you don't use Copal, Marogers or Liquin then you'd have to wait a bit longer....maybe a day apart...depends on how you paint or how much areas you leave free of the base color. Hope that answers that.