View Full Version : Tricks to painting water with acrylics?
I'm having a hard time with water.
It looks easy enough, but that is not so. Painting still water using acrylics, showing reflections of the landscape. I am making a mess. Is there a lesson on here somewhere?
I am trying to do this with no idea how to go about it. I am assuming that with oils it might be easier to pull down the reflections and then blend with a soft brush. At least I think that's how one would do it. Can anyone point me in the right direction?
02-22-2001, 04:58 PM
had an instructor once who lightly scumbled higher value paint across a darker image (reflection) as a way of indicating highlights.
"Art is anything you can get away with." -- Marshall McLuhan
It is true that making smooth transitions is easier to do in oils than in acrylics.
But painting reflections in oils by pulling some paint down and then leveling it out horizontally is Bob Ross and not good painting practice, I would say.
Take a look at the impressionists and the pointillists; they did quitte some reflections on the water.
L'impression by Monet being the most famous and Sisley did quitte a lot that I think would be instructive.
Generally you'll see a vague or more or less distorted mirroring of form, a partial mirroring of colour and some more correct mirroring of value. All this mostly rendered in short horizontal strokes or interrupted by horizontal strokes.
I feel it shouldn't make much difference wether you work in oils or in acrylics when looking at these examples, don't you agree?
The problem might be the still waters and how still you want them to be.
With the examples I have in mind there is still a lot of movement in the water while maintaining the suggestions of calm water.
If you want to accentuate the stillness of the water you would have to do an almost exact mirroring in slightly lower value and saturation and let the reflection break along very subtle lines, but that would ask for a hyperrealistic style, I think.
Hope this helps a bit.
02-24-2001, 11:14 AM
Bev..look at my "Painting a Roadside Masterpiece" lesson here on WC..in the Artschool Online Archive.
I have forgotten now just how many lessons I have here at WC, but of them the majority I'm sure has water involved.
Don't worry too much if its acrylic or oil lessons either, principles are much the same.
Visit my artist site, and perhaps 90% of my near 80 works are painting water.
I used to look for "tricks" years ago. As though water could be reduced to a simple formula. Any attempts to paint water like this will look forced and cheap.
Water not only reflects the shoreline, it reflects parts of the sky that are light and dark, the various colors of the sky. It refracts and shows the effects of light off of shallow bottoms, or penetrating light in the water.
Start by painting from photos if you'd like, but then..spend some quality time along water's edges and study with your eyes.
I guess I was fortunate. My father was a licensed sportsfishing guide when he wasn't being a policeman. I've been around water all my life. Now I live in a national forest area with 1200 lakes, rivers and streams. Plus..like my father..I spent time in the navy. Water, water, water..everywhere water.
You have to see it, listen to it, be moved by it. Your artistic senses need to be captivated by it to the point where you no longer have a choice to express what you feel about it, you absolutely must paint it!
Observe what light does..watch the water patterns. Watch a leaf or insect float by, and the swirls. Above all..squint your eyes and simply observe the patterns of colors and shapes.
Painting water on location is a whole other ball game. I know big name wildlife artists that literally cast a slide up on their canvas and trace all the waves and patterns, and basically filled them in. I'd love to watch them squirm with a French easel in front of stuff that won't sit still!
In fact, did anyone read artist Jim Lamb's opening lines in the interview with him on painting plein air in the recent "Southwest Art" magazine? I met Jim at a Wild Wings exhibition where we were both exhibiting. The article starts off raving about his many years of commercial fine art, his many many published prints..then he says in spite of all this experience...the first time he stood at his easel out of doors, he suddenly realized, he "didn't now how to paint!"
I loved that honesty..and roared! I immediately identified, but look at him now! I feel like I've been born all over again as well as a painter.
After so many years of painting on location now, Bev, I have determined to no longer think of water as water..trees as trees..sky and clouds the same, etc; ALL things are merely shapes and color. Slowly the right half of the brain develops, and is content to not get bogged down with object recognition.
My concern now is what not to paint, not what to paint or how. So...with paint at hand, acrylic or oil...my secret is to squint my eyes...see small shapes of color, mix the color, and dip and dab. If you are faithful to imitate shape and color, values of light and dark, the result will be that as you back up from the painting it will appear as water. Here are a couple images from one lesson here to illustrate that.
Don't think of a shape as a reflection of a tree. Just squint eyes..see shape and color... dip and dab! The only strong line I follow and recommend, is that the surface of water is smooth in general, and moves horizontally, so brushstrokes should not be haphazaard like straw. Keep the strokes going horizontal, or working together in the same general direction.
<IMG SRC="http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/24-Feb-2001/water_time.jpg" border=0>
<IMG SRC="http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/24-Feb-2001/Roadside_Tranquility_small.jpg" border=0>
"Painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do!" Edgar Degas
[This message has been edited by lseiler (edited February 24, 2001).]
Thanks once again for your tremendous help. I will look at your lessons, and print them out. I figure I have two months to get a grip on some techniques, as that is when it will be warm enough to be outside, and the rivers will no longer be ice covered. I'm getting ready- bought some paint today, a bunch of stretched canvases, a set of pastels and watercolours, pencils, etc but could only drool over the french easels. The lower priced ones were obviously poor quality.
02-25-2001, 11:10 AM
Once again I find your posts articulate and thoughtful. Just had to say thanks for the obvious effort and experience you put into them.
I have done a lot of small stream fishing but I never really saw the water until I had learned to paint it. To me there is not really a trick to it, just getting your mind right to where you really see and can translate it into a doable representation. I use both acrylic and oil, doesn't matter.
03-03-2001, 09:17 PM
Thanks everybody for your tips on painting water. Once I start painting again with acrylics I`ll use these tips. http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/wink.gif
03-04-2001, 06:36 AM
Larry, this painting of water is truly "mouth-watering" http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/biggrin.gif
(couldn't resist, sorry)
But I mean it sincerely http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif
"Paintings are never finished, only abandoned" (source unknown)
[This message has been edited by bbbilly1326 (edited March 04, 2001).]
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