How? HOW?! How did Monet do water lillies so much justice? And how does Joseph Zbukvic achieve similar perfection in his paintings? I clearly do not know.

I tried to paint the scene from Nimisilla Reservoir dock C-6 again today. I think I’m getting closer, but I’m still not entirely sure how to represent that scene in a painting.

For reference, here’s the photo I’m trying to paint. Now, I don’t want to “paint that photo” rather, I want to paint “my recollection of that place.“ there are two different things. What the camera sees is not what I saw, or at all what I felt in that place. The camera has seen sharp, crisp edges, and itsy bitsy little lilly pads. When I was there, I found the lilly pads to be much more prominent, and the sun glare on the water was much less prominent. So, I’m using the reference photo to remind me of things such as scale, and relative values, but I’m trying to paint what I remember, informed by the photo. Not sure if that makes sense, but there you have it.

Before trying to paint this, I studied it with several paintings while I sat in the shore. I posted those here.


Today, I decided to try again. This was attempt number 5. I like how I captured the flowers in this one, something I hadn’t achieved in my previous attempts. I p painted these by masking off the shapes before painting, and then adding a slash of purple at the very end. That, at least, I’d something I’ve done correctly here.

I didn’t capture the bed of Lilly pads in the distance as well as I would have liked. I think they are far too crisp, and the edge is too horizontal.

I also don’t like the composition. I want to convey the peace of the place, and I think there is a compositional problem with the image that prevents me from achieving that.

The peninsula is a very heavy visual element on the left. The lilly pads are a heavy element as well, and they are also on the left. This makes the composition feel very heavily weighted to that side, giving a cantilevered feel to the image. That creates a sense of visual tension that disturbs the serenity of the place. I have tried to balance this by including the tree branches on the right, but I think they just make the image feel busy, further distorting that sense of peaceful reflection.


So, for my next go, I decided to move the lilly pads to the right. This should help create an s-curve leading line, and balance the image. I also want to highlight the flowers more, which I’ll do by increasing the size of the nearest flower.

In order to keep the perspective accurate, I think I need to pull the viewer close to the water’s edge, which should subsequently lower the horizon, I think, so I’m trying that as well. Let’s see how this goes.

To start, I used masking tape to divide the horizon, this should give me a very crisp edge, which I hope will help achieve the effect of sun glare on the distant water when I get to that point.

For the sky, I sprayed my paper with water, and then used a sea sponge to blot in blues, purples, and browns. I then sprayed it liberally, and added heavy pigment at the horizon, using the same colors, plus some sap green. I think I went a bit too heavy here, but I won’t know for sure until the rest of the image is there, it might balance out ok. I’m really trying to contrast the soft edges of the distant trees with what will be sharp edges from some dry brush work on the water. That will needs to be done with one confident brush stroke, leaving bits of the paper untouched. It’s not easy to do, so we’ll see how that goes next.

Before I try the shimmering surface of the water, this is what I got once the sky dried, and the masking tape was removed. (I love that sky.)

To render the water, I first masked off the sky, so I could paint quickly without worrying about the horizon line, and then I painted that one brush stroke using a fairly neutral blue.

With that stroke out of the way, I gradually added more water, and more pigment, and painted the water down to the bottom of the page. As I nearer the bottom, I worked in purples and browns to neutralize the water because we can see into the water when it’s nearer.

It was at this point that I realized I had forgotten to mask off the flowers. Doh! I guess I’ll have to use gouache.

Then my phone died. So I couldn’t take progress photos, but suffice it to say, I mucked it up. I’ll have to try again later tonight.

What went right? The sky. The trees on the peninsula. The change in composition (lillies on the right works better.) Using wet in wet in the distant lillies. The water, before I glazed it. Reducing the number of lillies overall. Having some of the lillies standing up helps the reflections read correctly.

What went wrong?

The lillies in the foreground are mud. I didn’t mask off the flowers. The water got muddy when I glazed over it. The lowered horizon, I should have done the opposite, the horizon should be higher if I’m looking more downward. I’m honestly not even sure how I convinced myself otherwise. The distant trees on the horizon are overdone. The water is cut in half by the lillies, and all of the glare is above, making the water two separate elements.

I’ll try to repeat the successes, and fix the failures.


I quit.