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Old 04-17-2009, 03:51 AM
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creativechrissy creativechrissy is offline
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Rocks. How to paint Rocks?

I have been working on a waterfall landscape painting in acrylics for a couple of weeks now, and have re-painted over the "rocks" behind the waterfall 3 times now...I just can't get the colours right or the texture. (pulling out my hair )

Here are a few (bad) examples of what is not working for me

*Apologies for the photos and glare but you get the idea

This is my first try -wet in wet




Second re-painted try


Third re-painted try -scumbling left and texture right



Where I am at now. Got the Sh!ts and re-painted the whole thing in a "base" rock colour.


For the life of me I just can not find ANY tutorials online for "how to paint rock texture" without find how to paint actual rocks or how to paint in photoshop.

I can't get the colours or the texture. I also feel the depth is lacking too. When I have tried lighter grey rocks it didn't look right. HELP!!! I am so sruggling with this. Do you know of any tutorials (preferably in acrylic) which could help? Or have you got a technique which works well?

Bare in mind this is a rainforest landscape so the rocks are dark and I will cover the middle bit with the water fall. But it is important to me to get the colour and look of the rocks right before I try to finish it.
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Old 04-17-2009, 05:14 AM
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Patrick1 Patrick1 is offline
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Re: Rocks. How to paint Rocks?

Hi...do you have a ref photo or is this from your imagination? You killed too much of your darks in the base color of the rock face. In a dark forest scene such as this, the rock base will probably be dark enough that it fits in with the shadows of the foliage, rather than a being separate and disjunct object. Think of the rocks emerging out of the same near-black as the foliage. Once your base is dark enough, you can gently build up the lights, form, and color of the rock face, being careful not to make anything too bright yet, and to leave plenty of the darks untouched. If you're working from a reference, squinting while looking at it will simplify and help bring out the all-important overall value structure.

Look at how you did what appears to be a small rock form or bush in the lower left. It's looks like the beginning of a rock face or cliff, only needing slight lightening for some of the rock structure, and then water cascading down. I did an imaginary painting like that in Photoshop or Painter but I don't think I saved it step-by-step, only the finished product.
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Old 04-17-2009, 08:24 AM
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creativechrissy creativechrissy is offline
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Re: Rocks. How to paint Rocks?

Hi there Patrick1,

I am using a few reference photos plus imagination. My photos do not show the rocks up close, their colour or texture so I am "winging" how I think they show be and not doing very well.

Reference Photo









For my painting I am aiming more for the sunlit rocks with some hidden in shadow.
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Old 04-17-2009, 10:21 AM
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gunzorro gunzorro is offline
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Re: Rocks. How to paint Rocks?

A little late for this painting, but I would suggest choosing any ONE of your reference photos and trying to duplicate it as closely as possible, and not "winging-it". The need for careful observation of details and conveying them in your painting will help answer your problem of painting rocks and other areas.

Just an observation from your reference photos: there are hardly any rocks showing, if any. That makes trying to produce something completely from imagination -- I always find it leads to bad results when I try to wing-it without a thorough understanding of my subject.
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Old 04-17-2009, 10:22 AM
breizhou breizhou is offline
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Re: Rocks. How to paint Rocks?

Here's a link that might be useful to you "Down under" :

http://www.wetcanvas.com/ArtSchool/QuikTips/Rocks/
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Old 04-24-2009, 09:52 AM
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LarrySeiler LarrySeiler is offline
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Re: Rocks. How to paint Rocks?

visit my blogspot, "Painting From Life" and on the right are categories, click on waterfalls...and you'll see quite a few paintings of falls, rocks and so forth with some comments and instruction.

My more pertinent advice is...it is best to actually paint from life. No better reference than actual light, actual color, actual shadows...

This past weekend, I was at a place in upper Michigan called Fumee Falls, and darned if a group of prom kids didn't show up thinking it to be a good place for prom pics. Several lads decided with their rented tuxes, to climb up and scale the rocks...which I found entertaining...



8"x 10" oil


I cooled the color and darkened the values of the rocks on the left side, downplayed detail..which all serves then to represent shadows. I added more warmth, more impasto handling for texture to the rocks on the right...

Also...the painting is more accurate with color than the photo of the boys on top. The rocks had more a darker mauve neutral reddish-brown appearance in shadows...were warmer in the light but in the photo appear grayer...darks dark, lights light...but color very inaccurate. This is what you get with photos...

All rocks appear different depending on the light, and photographs do not always do justice. Where trees or other rocks block sunlight, shadows allow for the color of the sky above to bounce light into the shadows and hints of say cools like blue are seen which is an "indirect" light. Other light bounces off objects into shadows which is a reflected light...and if I were to paint from your photographs to be quite honest, I would have to paint with the assumption having painted often outdoors...that particular things are not evident because of the camera's lacking. Such as indirect and reflected light.

The fun then of painting from photos for me would be to take what I know and make the painting appear as if I would have been on location set up. However...if one has never painted on location, then chances are one would just copy the photo. At best...the painting even looking just like the photo to the trained eye would see it could not have been painted at the site because the information relating to indirect and reflected light in the form of color and color temperature is missing or lacking...

Note then...I'm not saying one cannot paint from photos...but without good knowledge and observation outdoors one becomes a slave to the photo where it actually would require altercation.

Its about the light..and you can paint the same rocks on different days, totally different palette and have different results that say something about nature's mood. Its about seeing...not about deriving a finite foolproof formula...

Here are some more of my own paintings...and note the color and mood differences between them...









and this one, Lake Superior shores...note the pinks, grays, blues..of the rocks in shadow and something that photos will very poorly if at all suggest, and yet how painting such beefs up the painting to imitate nature's light-



In each case...light coming from left or right, in front or backlit, color shifts, texture suggestions, edges...all work to say something about the light. It is representing the light of nature convincingly that will fool the eye to believe. Sometimes the light suggests the rocks are subtle, distant...other times rough, harsh...brutal. Sometimes what rocks appear like in early morning light, or late afternoon light...on and on...

good luck
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Last edited by LarrySeiler : 04-24-2009 at 10:05 AM.
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Old 04-24-2009, 09:53 AM
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LarrySeiler LarrySeiler is offline
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Re: Rocks. How to paint Rocks?

P.S. you might also want to post your question to painters in the Landscape and Plein air forum that paint such things routinely and get further input...

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Old 04-25-2009, 02:28 AM
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cjorgensen cjorgensen is offline
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Re: Rocks. How to paint Rocks?

You hit paydirt with this query! Larry is the Rock-and-Waterfall Guru. I also agree with Gunzorro - pick a reference and try that. I found that making things up usually turns out badly because I don't know what the details look like.

Rocks are 3-d, just like cubes, spheres, cylinders, etc., so they need 3 (or 4) colors: local colors, shadows, (reflected lights) and highlights, in order to look solid. If you had a stack of cubes, spheres and cylinders, you would draw them all in, then work out the shadows and the highlights. Same with rocks, except that they are irregular.

But I am just a beginner compared to Larry. He really knows his stuff.
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