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!
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!