This is my attempt to paint this scene from Dock C-6 at Nimisila Reservoir.

If you are curious about my previous attempts…

Attempts 1-4 are here.

Attempts 5-7 are here.

Attempts 8-9 are here.

Attempts 10-11 are here.

Number 12:

OMG… I think I’m getting close.

So I decided to try to follow the recipe I came up with after Number 11. To save you a click, here’s the recipe from that post:

I’ll want to try to replicate the sky from 10, and the trees from 12, but add a layer of soft edges on the peninsula like I said.

When I paint the water, I want to see what happens if I go from clean water through turquoise and into green, instead of going through blue to end at purple. I think that will help lighten things up considerably. I’ll also try painting a mix of green and purple beneath the peninsula instead of just purples for the reflection. I need the reflection of the peninsula to be dark in order to emphasize the glare of the water on the right, but if I go too dark too quickly, the lily pads get lost.

I also want to experiment with masking off some lily pads as well as flowers in the water between the peninsula and the bottom of the painting.

Lastly, I think I prefer the stillness of the water in 10, but I don’t know if that’s just because I didn’t execute the ripples as I wanted in number 11. I’ll have to try to more effectively render ripples in the water in number 12 before I really make a decision on that.

I didn’t follow it exactly, and there were a few stages where I screwed up and overworked things, but I do think I’m dangerously close to unlocking the secrets of this painting.

Stage 1: Initial Wash

The first thing I did was to mask off the tree branches, lily pads, flowers, and some of the water at the horizon. Now that it’s finished, I think all of this is the right solution, except for masking the glistening water. For that, I really do need to rely on dry brush work, and confidence.

After masking things off, I painted the sky by wetting the top of the page, and painting a blue line into the horizon. I then dragged that pigment into the wet sky, and let it fall to give the impression of clouds.

I wish I had taken a picture at that point, because the sky was really good at that stage. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough confidence in myself, and I went back into the sky, and overworked it. Fortunately, I didn’t go ape, and managed to avoid destroying the painting right out of the gate.

After painting the sky, I painted the water with a clean wash at the horizon, adding a stroke of UM Turquoise, and then used UM Blue to bring the water to the bottom of the page. This was the right move.

Remember how I needed to wait a bit longer to paint the trees on the horizon? Yeah. I didn’t.

So I overworked them. I tried feathering the mistake with a dry brush, but that forced me to revisit the sky to avoid blossoms, and that caused me to rework the water… ugh.

I simply MUST learn to let mistakes be.

After that, I dappled vegetation into the peninsula, added some green to c cf the water beneath the peninsula, and across the bottom of the page. Then, I shook my brain back into my head and let it all dry before obliterating it. It’s overworked, but not irreparably.

Stage 3: Focal Point(s)

Once that was finished, I removed the masking fluid from the peninsula, and the glare on the water. I then reapplied masking fluid to the peninsula (so I would end up with a tangle of branches) and some additional bits of masking fluid to the horizon. This is why the horizon looks like a mound of highlights… I need to skip the masking fluid on the horizon.

I then used masking fluid to mask off a bunch of lily pads, and used my hair drier to dry the masking fluid.

I wasn’t sure if a hair drier would impact the masking fluid. I don’t know if the hair drier is to blame, but I did get a small tear in the paper when I removed the masking fluid from the peninsula. Fortunately, Arches paper is sized throughout, so it wasn’t completely ruined.

After the masking fluid dried, I painted clean water into the horizon, and the surface of the water. Once the sheen was off the paper, I painted purple trees into the horizon, and let that fall down into the water to create a reflection.

I then painted lily pads across the surface of the water using a small round brush, gradually defining them more and more until I was painting the actual lead shapes at the bottom of the image.

I think of those few lily pads as a legend, like on a map. These two or three lily pads need to be rendered carefully so that they are unmistakably lily pads. The viewer then sees these lily pads, and they inform all the other green marks and blobs of color. The end result is the illusion of lots of carefully rendered lily pads, but in reality, there are only a few. The viewer’s mind is doing the rest of the work.

This is what I absolutely love about paintings. By providing viewers a key by which they can interpret abstract shapes, I allow them to become a part of the creative process. I render three lily pads, and tell the viewer, “here. Now you go and decide what the rest of these things are.” When the viewer does this, they generate a mental map of the painting that is unlike anyone else’s experience, because they stitched so much of it together on their own. At least, that’s my goal. That’s always… ALWAYS… my goal.

Stage 3: Jewelry

After those dried, I removed all of the masking fluid, and carefully rendered the lily pads that were left a as bare paper. This gave me the bright lily pads against dark water that I was after.

I also dappled additional shadows into the branches on the horizon, and then used neutral greens, purples and browns to paint the branches, by following the left-hand side of the tree trunks, and then painting wet greens over top as a final glaze while the trunks and branches were still wet. I was careful not to cover all of the whites that I had preserved, but I felt like I had preserved too many whites. So, I went back into the peninsula with very dark-valued browns and purples to give the impression of brambles at the shore. This was probably too much. It ended to feeling rather dead here.

To finish, I used my smallest brush, and heavy neutral tint to darken the water directly beneath the lily pads, and give the impression of shadows on the surface of the water.

To give you a bit of insight into my life… I’m so tired right now (it’s 2:30 am) that I’m literally falling asleep as I write this. In fact, until I fixed it, that last paragraph ended with:

I think I can do this by using a darker pigment during the stage when I render the reflection of the horse stall.

I have no idea what happened, but I slipped into a semi-conscious state where I was sleepy enough to daydream that deeply, and yet coherent enough to type out something about a horse stall.

Anyway, I’ll try lucky number 13 tomorrow.