Paint Water in Every Season

26 May 2013

Shaw's Cove by Ray Roberts, 2003, oil painting, 12 x 16.
Shaw's Cove by Ray Roberts,
2003, oil painting, 12 x 16.

When I was in college, I read a lot of Romantic poetry, and what still sticks in my mind is all the water imagery those writers used. For them, water was a stand-in for life, transcendence, and the creative impulse. With such inherent possibilities, it’s all but essential for painters to be able to accurately depict this inspiring element, and that’s why we’ve compiled several methods and solutions for doing just that.

Vernal Falls by Stefan Baumann, 2003, oil, 27 x 17.
Vernal Falls by Stefan Baumann,
2003, oil, 27 x 17.

In the natural world, water is rarely absolutely still. There is always some kind of movement, whether it is the wind blowing on the water’s surface, underwater currents, or waves cresting along the shore and flowing back out to sea. When painting water, be mindful of its motion, which is given away by the light reflections on, and refractions in, the water. In acrylic painting, scumbling with wet paint over dry is a great way to achieve these visual effects.

Water is a chameleon. It takes on colors around it—that of the sky, of its close surroundings, and of its contents. In most landscapes, water takes on a greenish cast and tends to darken with its depth, so shallow waters often have warmer tones that grow cooler as the water gets deeper. When water painting, it is always good to remember that.

The Brooklyn Bridge by T. Allen Lawson, 2002, oil painting, 7 x 10.

The Brooklyn Bridge
by T. Allen Lawson,
2002, oil painting, 7 x 10.

Mirrorlike reflections are not the domain of creeks, rivers, and oceans. Reflections of sky on water tend to be darker than the sky itself. In the same way, dark shadows cast on the water tend to be lighter than the actual shadows.

In keeping with the essence of water as inspirational, free-flowing, and surprising, consider a resource devoted entirely to the subject: Vibrant Watercolors: Painting Water with Soon Warren. The DVD explores painting compelling and unique seascapes and you'll also get direct access to the artist-instructor's inspirations and thoughts on the work. In a way, water is like a window into all the beauty of Nature and into the artist’s mindset—equally inspiring on both fronts. Enjoy!

 


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Comments

on 2 Aug 2010 12:25 PM

Any chance you could make these images link to larger versions in the future?  As a gift to those of us who learn by observation?  Thanks.

whitecactus wrote
on 2 Aug 2010 5:04 PM

Greetings  Courtney Jordan,

 Love the way you described the water. I am a "Romantic Realist"  painter and understand all you said.  You are the person who should take this idea of International Artist Day Oct 25th yearly and help promote it on your great site.  

www.internationalartistday.com  

Thank you Chris MacClure

Margo5 wrote
on 2 Aug 2010 10:39 PM

Courtney, these paintings are beautiful. The calendar must be amazing.

on 27 May 2013 8:56 AM

Courtney,

I am taking a Landscape course series with Daniel Edmondson, and  one of the wonderful things about the course is water- Out of the 10 Landscapes in the series, water is featured in eight out of the ten. Everything from a  couple of waterfalls to still water and then to a couple of frozen winter scenes with exquisite water detail, finishing with a gushing spring water scene in a stream. Now I must admit, there are no ocean scenes in the series, however I think that can be saved for another day. Thank you for your delightful comments and artists you tend to follow. One note, the series is in oil, so i always look forward to comments about anything in oil.

Robert

weavz wrote
on 27 May 2013 11:35 AM

I love to paint water. As an oil painter I paint it every chance I get. I also teach online classes with the Artists Network University.

One of the mistakes many artists make is to first paint the surface of the water. Step one is to paint the depth so start with vertical brush strokes using the color of the water. This gives the water depth.

Next paint the surface with horizontal strokes and thicker paint. The more turbulent the water the more horizontal brush strokes added.

Last add the lightest highlights. I usually use a palette knife for this or lots of paint on a brush for waves. Be very careful not to overdo the highlights. In this case less is more.

Hope this helps some of you artists and look for my upcoming classes.

nlegendre wrote
on 1 Jun 2013 7:42 AM

<< dark shadows cast on the water tend to be lighter than the actual shadows.>>

Can anyone explain this comment to me?  It doesn't make sense to me...  

Perhaps what the author intends is that "dark shadows cast on the water tend to be lighter than the actual shadows" would be if cast on land?.

Thanks, nancy