I decided that before I start a new painting of these lily pads at the C-6 Dock at Nimisila Reservoir, I should review the paintings I have made so far. I realized over the weekend that I’m not painting the actual scene anymore, I’m painting some kind of analog of what I saw and felt when I went there. I think I should go back, and try to paint the scene on site once more, but I’m not going to do that tonight.

Below you can see the 14 attempts I have made at painting this, plus the photo. Versions 1-3 were all painted plein air, the rest were all painted at home. I would be genuinely curious to hear any feedback regarding which version you like best if anyone slips on an Internet banana peel, falls down, gets lost, and accidentally finds themselves reading this before I another painting.

I do not like any of these. Which kind of makes me feel like shit to be honest. It’s all about pushing through, and trying to improve, especially when it feels like ups aren’t going anywhere, but honestly, it’s getting harder and harder because I feel less and less talented with each failed painting.

Don’t correct me. Don’t tell me I’m doing great. Because if you do, I won’t believe you when I have pushed through the shit, and I really am executing the way I want to.

If…

Ok, before I try this again, I want to examine the painting I have made already, and force myself to find something good in each one. I also noticed a few things in the source photo that are completely lacking from the painting which I want to try to incorporate.

Things I Missed

Looking at the source photo, I see that I have basically ignored the glare of the sun on the water entirely. This bright white shine gives the surface of the water it’s wet feel. That is something entirely missing from all of my other attempts to paint this. I’m not exactly sure how I’ll render that, but I know I’m going to try.

There is also a lot more value contrast on the surface of the water than I have represented in my paintings. Maybe I’ve been stuck trying to deploy Joseph Zbukvic’s water lily techniques so much that I stopped trying to paint the thing that inspired me to paint in the first place.

I’ll try to ignore the last 14 paintings when I go to paint number 15. I’ll try to return to the source, and try to paint that, instead of trying to paint a patchwork of bandaid’s slapped on 14 dead paintings.

Before I try to completely forget these things exist, I do want to force myself to find something good in each one. The list below explains what I like about each of these attempts. And to highlight what I’m talking about, I’ve highlighted the thing I think is successful in each one.

  1. This was the only one where I came close to rendering some glare in the foreground. I see now that this could be a transformative element. Hopefully, I’ll be able to find a way to capture it.
  2. I like that the lily pads are standing up in this one. That’s what they were doing in real life, so I do want to try to represent them standing in this painting.
  3. I like that one lily pad standing tall in this one.
  4. I like the distant trees in this one. They have structure, but are still soft enough to be pushed into the background. This is the closest to how I picture them in.
  5. I like that one flower in this painting, sitting all cozy on top of that one lily pad. Even though many of the lily pads have started reaching up into the sky, far more are still flat against the surface of the water.
  6. I like the sparkle of light at the horizon on this one. I really do need to have that in my final version in order for the light to read correctly.
  7. This sparkle is nice as well. Maybe even a bit better because it’s more localized and concentrated, making the sun feel lower in the sky.
  8. I like the very subtle ripple in this one.
  9. I like the way the branches are reflected in the water here, that value contrasts really helps the water surface shine.
  10. I like the pattern of lily pads in this one.
  11. I like how the trees on the peninsula feel divorced from the trees on the horizon here. The peninsula might be abut too busy, but that separation really contributes a sense of depth of field.
  12. I don’t know why, but I like that one lily pad in this one.
  13. I like the mottling on the trees trunks in this one.
  14. I really like that this flower is bent over in number 14. I don’t want to have more than one of these bent flowers in the final version, and I don’t want to draw attention to it. I want it to be more of an Easter Egg, maybe no one will notice it, but that one bent over flower will be me in the painting.

After exploring how things went with the paintings I have already done, I decided to explore ways to improve the composition. I decided to simplify the image into very basic shapes, and used a vector-based illustration program to move the shapes around in order to see what I liked best.

As I moved, and removed, shapes, I took a quick snap shot every now and then to see what something would look like compared to something else, (and so I could show you what I’m doing.) This is the first time I’ve done this, so I don’t know exactly how helpful it will be, but seeing as composition is so fundamentally important, and my biggest struggle, I can’t imagine this exercise being anything but helpful in the end.

Here are 16 images from that exercise.

Of these, number 6 and number 4 are my favorites.

Number 6
Number 4

I like the depth of field offered by number 4, but number 6 seems more in line with the subject matter. Number 4 starts to feel a bit forced, as if I’m painting a richer… maybe it would work, but I already tried moving the lily pads to that side, and I shouldn’t really like the result. So, I’ll use the composition in number six, and I’ll try to remain more true to the lighting in the source photo to come up with painting number 15.

Ok, that’s enough. I’ll try to paint this again, and this time I’ll actually look at the source photo when I do. The biggest thing to improve on is the glare on the surface of the water… let’s see how that goes.

I like the sky, and the distant trees.