Saturday, August 13, 2011

Beginning Critique and Through the Water class results

Clear Water Stones, 5" x 7", gouache on Arches #300 c/p

It was so good to get back to class again!

We began with a  critique, looking at 3 or 4 paintings from each student to determine the direction and improvements each one wants to make, not only in individual paintings but on the whole. I really have a talented and enthusiastic group of students.

Following that, I gave a short lecture on how to paint rocks underwater, with a demonstration that was done mostly using PanPastels. Above is a painting I prepared to show how effectively you can paint this subject using gouache, and below is an example of how you can approach this subject in pastel.

High and Dry, 9"x 12", pastel on Pastelmat
To paint underwater rocks I suggest you begin with a photograph that inspires you. Find a photo that shows large and small, wet and dry rocks, has shadows caused by interesting light, and features some reflections on the water to indicate its movement.

Choose a medium tone that will allow you to build both light and dark areas. Do a good sketch showing the placement of the rocks, either in charcoal or pastel. It’s not necessary to draw every single stone, but locate the major players, and then loosely indicate the size and general placement of scattered stones in non-essential regions.

Don’t be afraid to go dark in the early stages. Using saturated colors of the proper value will also work to your advantage when you mute the underwater rocks with further layers of pastel.

To create the impression of water over rocks is really a fairly simple process. Select a color that will portray the water, whether it’s a blue-gray or green-tea color, and lightly glaze or feather over the color in place. Don’t cover the lights and darks beneath, and don’t obscure all the color with a thick layer.

Then add highlights in the reflections, bubbles, floating objects, and ripple lines in the water. A reflection obscures what is beneath, so paint from bottom to top, but leave room for paler areas on top. To paint a ripple, think of two mirrors pointed in different directions, catching the color of the object they’re pointed at. Use sharp edges to create the impression of liquidity. To paint a floating bubble, draw an ellipse on the water in a color darker than the surface, then ring it with light and carefully draw in the light colored dome. Pay attention to the direction of the light and shadows, and where you see highlights. 

Keep going, gang!


  1. I'm adding this as a comment rather than edit the blog post, but you must go over to Bill Cone's blog and look at the paintings of the Sierra Buttes workshop he just did. In the middle of the report is a wonderful painting of.. you guessed it.. rocks under water!

  2. these are both lovely...wish I were in the class!

  3. Thanks for a great post. I wish I'd been in the class, it sounds so wonderful. Something to work toward when I'm self employed!

    One thing that occurred to me with reflections and rocks under water. From life I've often seen the reflections or shadows of dark masses of foliage or objects on shore turn clear, showing rocks under the surface, while sky reflections around that outline obscure the bottom completely and give a great impression of the water's surface level.

    This gets really stunning if it's a dappled shadow from light coming through tree branches, with the shadow shapes showing minnows and rocks and weeds while the sky reflections define the surface. It's one of those things in nature that's always fascinated me. I have to paint that effect someday. You've shown me a lot more of how to achieve it!