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Renderings in Watercolor and Acrylic of Waterscapes

Jul 1, 2008
The fascination of the almost-mesmeric effects of ever-changing, sparkling light patterns on water has intrigued artists for centuries. The subject could be pounding seas, a placid lake, a rampant river, or a wandering stream. Translating the feeling of the play of light on water to a two-dimensional painted surface is an engrossing artistic endeavor.

Watercolor and acrylic are two interesting mediums (among many) having unique characteristics when used to give the illusion of reflections on water. Handled differently, both are water-based paints, but are definitely diverse in their applications and results.

Different rendering methods are required for reflections of clouds, trees, bridges and boats on top of the water as well as earth and rocks under the water. Please refer to the author bio for the link to view these images.

Painting #1, Red Boats, will illustrate the usefulness of both the opacity and the transparency of acrylic in reflections.

The reflection of the sky was painted in a transparent, thin wash with lots of water and let dry. The reflections of the trees were then built up in many layers of opaque and darker, less intense colors, as reflections would appear in water. (Notice the darker red of the boat reflection in the foreground).

The colors of the sky and clouds, showing through between the tree branches, were added in opaque light blue and white. Shadows on the end of the bridge reflect in the water in transparent, washy layers.

Painting #2, Canal Crossing, is a watercolor example of rendering the bubbling, foamy water behind a paddling parade of canal ducks.

The reflection of the colorful underside of the bridge was painted first and let dry. Then the waterway passage underneath and behind the ducks was scrubbed out with clear water and a soft brush. Carefully done, this takes off the surface paint and exposes the white base of the watercolor board. After thoroughly dry, the board was then painted with horizontal strokes to create the illusion of moving water behind the swimming ducks. This method takes advantage of the non-permanence of the watercolor medium.

Painting #3, Shallows, illustrates how acrylic paint is utilized both opaquely and transparently in painting 1) pebbles and the ground when seen under water and 2) bridge railings reflections on the surface of the water.

1) The pebbled ground in the lower left foreground steps down under the water towards the middle of the canal. This part of the painting was done at the same time as the bank of pebbles on the right, but the detailing of submerged pebbles is slightly blurred, as it would be when seen under the water. Then, after it all was dry, a transparent water effect was painted over the area. Because of the permanency of the pigment, however, the image underneath remains perfectly intact.

2) The reflections of the bridge railings are opaque, wavy, abstract patterns looking almost like ribbons bobbing across the surface of the water and over the submerged stones.

Painting #4, The Yellow House, shows the multi-layering effect obtained using opaque acrylic paint in rendering reflections on water.

First, the opaque, blue-green pigment representing the sky reflection in the canal water was put on the canvas. Next the reflection of the dark fronds of the palm tree in the center was added. Over the top of the palm frond reflection, several shades of lighter blue-green ripples of water portray the surface movement of the canal water. Three layers of opaque paint create the illusion.

In acrylic, white pigment is added to a color to get a lighter value. In watercolor, a light value of a color is achieved by letting the white of the watercolor surface show through and darker values are achieved by laying down cumulative washes.
About the Author
Go to: http://www.lynnealbright.com/. To see the images described in the text, scroll to the Featured panel on the extreme right of the home page. Framed and matted original, photographic reproductions of watercolor and acrylic paintings.
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