Reflections in Water: #1

The other day, I watched Joseph Zbukvic’s “Rural France in Watercolor” for the thirsty-eleventh time. I figure it was more expensive than any other movie I’ve ever paid for, so I might as well watch it over and over and over…

I decided to try his water lilly painting.

It came out fairly nice, though my reflections in the water aren’t as haunting as his, because I was too timid. He painted the reflections all the way down to the bottom of the page, mine are about a centimeter tall.

I then decided to try painting water with a more rippled surface.

Step 1: paint the mid-tones.
Step 2: Ruin it.

While I hate what I did to the left-hand side, I really do like how strong the contrast is between the highlights and shadows. So I decided to explore that some more.

This is a really great example of what not to do. I got carried away, and decided halfway through that I wanted the waves to be more green than blue. Unfortunately, watercolor doesn’t really like it when you change your mind like that.

Next I decided to really focus on the shape of the ripples. When I look at ripples in water, I see these shapes that look like Ds laying on their sides. That shape was what I had stuck in my mind when I painted this, but I focused so much on those D shapes that I exaggerated them. As a result this doesn’t really work. However – there is something that I genuinely like about the wet in wet in the foreground. The color palette worked well also, so I decided to try again.

This time, I started by painting the ripples again, but in green this time. I decided to leave the top right corner white because I wanted to play around with more than one reflection.

When that dried, I added the darker values, and tried to be brave, by using very thick pigment. I wanted to paint the shadowed side of the ripples to indicate a dark reflection, and the lit side to indicate a light reflection. Because the water was green, I decided to go for broke by painting the lit side with a heavily saturated yellow/orange, and the shadowed side with deep purple and blue.

I stood back a bit because it was starting to feel very abstract, and tried to look at it with fresh eyes. I then decided to make the darker reflections creep to the left some more.

I let that all dry, and tried to see it with fresh eyes again, but at this point I had been staring at it for so long that it was quickly turning into a complete abstraction. I still wanted the dark reflections to creep to the left a bit more, so I added a few more purple reflections on the left side of some ripples, and then used a more heavily saturated green to get some more variety in the tonal structure on the right side of the ripples. At that point, it was 5:00 in the morning, so I went to bed.

I really like the subject, and I love the heavy reliance on deeply saturated peoples and blues. I’m not sold on the yellow, and I think the left hand side would benefit from some bright, shining white glare here and there. Maybe I’ll try again today.

Maybe I’ll nap.

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