Calm Water Exercise: #1

This one is a couple days in the making. I got Ron Hazell’s book on how to paint water with Watercolor, and this is the exercise from the first chapter. 

Here’s Ron’s Book, as well as a photo of his version of this composition.

The Artist’s Guide To Painting Water In Watercolor: 30+ Techniques 

I couldn’t find an image of this painting on Ron’s Website, this is a photo from the book.

First, I did the value study sketch using the strategy recommended by Ron Hazell, first I colored everything that would be value 2+ in pencil, then with more pressure colored everything value 3+, and kept going until I was sketching the value 5’s with a lot of pressure. This teaches me not only where the values should go, but also how I’ll end up layering the painting. I like this strategy for value studies a lot, and I’ll keep doing it. Though, in the future, I’ll make the value studies smaller, just so they can be done more quickly.

For my critique of the painting itself, I’ll go top, down. I did a few things right, and a few things wrong, it was a very good learning experience.

The sky I like. That recipe of Indanthrone Blue and Phthalo Blue is working for me, so I’ll keep it up. However, I should have had the sky darker on the upper left instead of the upper right to help bring the building forward. 

The birds – ugh.

The trees were painted about eleven times too many. They are far too dark, they really should be a much more faded blue to give a sense of depth. The reason they went poorly is because I painted them wet on dry. I let the sky dry, and then went in on dry paper with my brush. I should have let the sky dry, then painted a line of clean water, and deposited pigment onto wet paper. This would have blurred them, desaturates the colors, and allowed me to mix on the paper. Instead, I got a lot of crisp lines and some interesting color variation, both of which bring the trees forward – which is the opposite of what I should have achieved.

The building is muddy. I should have been more confident with my color placement and let the pigment do its thing. Instead, I revisited it over and over trying to “get it right” and ended up just making it muddy and lifeless. Next time, I should remember to drop in some warm orange browns, and just drop some violet for shadows and let the violet mingle with the brown on its own.

I like the color of the rust on the roof. Perinone Orange, Permanent Alazarin Crimson and Sap Green make that color, it’s just brown enough (from the red and green) and just orange enough to make it the right hue. 

The windows, I tried painting the window panes different colors, to give it the feel of a factory, but I used a neutral beige (new gamboge and quin purple) on some panes, indanthrone blue on others, and quin purple on others. The result were garish patches that didn’t look at all like windows, so I covered it over with moonlight glow and went back with white (GASP!) when it was dry. I don’t like having to use white, but in a case like that, it really does fix the mess I made. I should have had many more panes in the windows due to how far away the building is. As it stands here, each window pane would be about five feet tall.

In Ron’s exercise, the Wharfs both appear to fall at about the same position on the water. I wanted to make the wharf that touched the building appear farther (further?) away. I achieved this by making that wharf more grey, bringing it higher in the composition, and making the dark horizontal shadows smaller and closer together. This worked well. The color is dull because I visited it too many times. Next time, I should place some pigment, let it be a mess, and then cut it up with the horizontal lines.

The white boat by the far wharf worked well. Surprise – I dropped some pigment and walked away never to touch it again. Proof that I shouldn’t over work the pigments.

The other wharf is dull as well. It should be much warmer because the light should be striking it, and the perspective is off. You shouldn’t see so much of the surface that is walked on.

I like the purple that I addded at the waterline – it helps make the wharf feel wet at the bottom.

The yellow boat worked well. Again, I painted it and walked away.

The reflections of both wharfs are ok. I think I like the closer reflection more than the far reflection because it has more action due to the skipping of the reflection.

I really like the skipping on the window reflections. And, I like how distorted they are – it adds a lot of interest.

The large white boat I’m proud of. The side feels like the right value, and the details on the inside feel correct as well. The reflection of that boat should be larger, it should have more skipping, and be a lighter value.

The shadow and reflection of the rope worked well, it really provides a ton of depth and perspective. It’s amazing how much depth a single line can add. Until I painted that shadow the boat felt very very flat. The minute I got that shadow on there, it was suddenly three dimensional.

This taught me a good lesson. Often, I try to fix parts of a painting before I’m done with the painting. Instead, I should let the mistakes linger, and fix them, or let them live. “Fixing” the image sometimes means leaving a thing alone, and painting the thing around it.

I love the skipping in the reflection in the bottom right.

The composition I dislike, the white space between the wharfs looks like it is part of the white boat. I should work on that.

All told, I’m reasonably happy with this. There is a lot of room for growth, as well as some indications that I have progressed. That’s all I want – to be better at it than I was yesterday.