Paint and magic
It's natural that a lot of my scenes of Florida and other vacation destinations include water. I find that painting the transparency and reflections of water in oceans and marinas is challenging but very satisfying. And when I succeed, it's magical!
Effects of sun and wind
I start by breaking the water surface into large shapes of different values. I squint at my reference photo and look for the main areas of light and dark. I also consider the atmospheric conditions; is it sunny or cloudy? does it look calm or windy? The amount of sun and clouds will affect the color and value of the reflections, and the wind will affect the surface texture.
In the painting above, the warm sun means warmer lights and darker darks. And I've made the surface of the water near the shore appear broken up into small wavelets by the wind, but closer to the boats it is more protected, I've made it look smoother.
Similarly, this bay in Hydra, Greece was relatively quiet, so the reflections are just a bit squiggly. Notice that those reflections always line up vertically with what they are reflecting, and that the tilting mast of the center boat has a reflected tilt in the same direction. Knowing what to look for and getting these kind of details right adds to the illusion.
In "St. Pete Stroll", above, the motion of the water adds energy to the painting and moves the viewer across the canvas from left to right. The diagonal slashes of solid blue alternated with sections of reflected color indicate that the water is pulsating and the wind is picking up.
Surf spray and foam
Above, I was especially pleased with the lower section of surf with its strong darks and lights and its little dots of spray. The colors and values of the bits of water seen through the foam explain the form of the wave and the sand underneath.
Notice the subtle reflections of the women's legs and the of the colorful floats. These bits of color make the women look like they are standing in the water holding the floats and they unify the painting.
Above in "Shell Collectors", the range in values from light (foreground) to dark (horizon) makes the water recede. Also the spacing of the lines of surf in the water get smaller in the distance, helping to create perspective. My favorite parts of this painting are the reflections of the women in the puddles and the the little birds with their dark shadows.
A simple backdrop
In "Sun, Sand, and Conversation", the water is painted very simply with just a darker value at the horizon to make the surface recede. The bit of brown in the closest water hints at the sand under the shallows. I often change the color of the water somewhat from what I see in my photos. Here I made it more aqua to work with the aquas in the foreground, and to contrast with the ultramarine blue in the sky.
Of course there's no one way to paint water. For some examples of beautifully rendered water look at these paintings by a few of my favorite artists: Joaquin Sorolla, Claude Monet, and John Singer Sargent. The Sargent page has an especially large number of works; scroll down to see many of his masterful paintings that include water. Sigh. There's always more to learn!
What I'm looking for
I like to paint sunlit city life in Florida and Europe. When I'm roaming the streets taking photos for my work there are a handful of subjects that make me perk up and look for a shot. These items appear in my work with regularity because to me they have a sense of fun, joie de vivre, and vivid color. Here they are, in no particular order:
Below are details of paintings with examples of these favorites. Hover for information or click to enlarge.
People and dogs
People are in all my paintings because they add life to the scene and make me wonder; Where are they going next? What are they saying and feeling? What would it be like to be there? I want their presence to create an open-ended story.
And dogs! Dogs are the best. If I could find more dogs to paint they would be in every painting. They bring joy and energy, and they're patient with our human foibles. Yes, I am a dog person. Besides, you rarely see people walking their cat.
aFrench cafes and waiters
Why is it that the cafes in Paris are the perfect place to relax and let the world go by? For me they are the quintessential coffee break experience; ambiance, history, great coffee, and fun people watching. I especially like the traditional black and white uniform of the waiters; they are visually dramatic and add a touch of and formality to a daily pleasure.
Bicycles and Scooters
You might be surprised at how hard it is to get a photo of a bicyclist or scooterist (sp?) as they pass you in the street. As I walk along looking for photos, by the time I realize that I have a good subject, they have usually passed. Or a car has blocked my shot. Or the angle isn't right. So frustrating! But I like how they add a sense of motion and fun to my paintings, so I keep trying. I really want to rent a red scooter and tool around Paris or Rome. But the opportunity hasn't arisen. Yet.
Water, boats, and palm trees
Painting scenes of Florida cities means I've learned to paint these ubiquitous aspects of our urban landscape. I study the different varieties of palm trees, leaf shapes, and tree profiles. I also look carefully at the appearance of water in terms of colors and reflections which reveal the weather and wind conditions in my paintings. And boats always require careful observation in order to mimic the complex curves and unique styling of each craft.
I could go on...
There are actually many more items to add to the list. But these are the main ones. Your turn: What do you think I'm missing? What should I be adding to my cityscapes that would be fun to paint and to look at?
I'm Linda Hugues and I paint cityscapes from my travels in Europe and my home in Florida. Here on my monthly blog I write about everything related to my art life, in and out of the studio. Enjoy!