Yesterday’s art class was all about painting water! The aim was to understand better how you might depict water in your artwork.

A landscape with a view of water is a favourite painting subject for so many artists – but there is much more to painting water than a landscape or seascape. Think about something as simple as a glass of water – how do you approach it?

Think of water as a conductor of colour – it is essentially a colourless medium but it takes on its character from its surroundings – it reflects on the surface and it shows depth and it changes when it moves.

Study for a class on painting water - a transparent and a blue vase for comparison.
Study for a class on painting water – a transparent and a blue vase for comparison.

Temperature also changes the ‘colour’ of water – cold water in a large body like the ocean is much darker than warm, tropical water – so water shows ‘mood’.

The depth and ‘bottom’ of a body of water also changes it’s ‘colour’ – think about a swimming pool lined with turquoise tiles or a river with a muddy bottom.

‘Looking and seeing properly!’

Things to think about when creating a painting or drawing that contains water as an element

Tips and tricks

Water finds its own level – it has a FLAT surface on the horizon, in a body of water and in a glass or vase unless it is moving. In a transparent vessel like a glass, water has a meniscus where it touches another solid object like the sides of the glass and also distorts the images seen through it.

Painting water in glass bottles
Still Life with Roses – demonstrating reflections on the water in transparent vessels.

Still water is transparent and takes on the colours of its surroundings but the more water moves, the whiter it becomes.

'Surge' by Christine Read acrylic on canvas 1 x 1.5m $1500.00
‘Surge’ acrylic on canvas 1 x 1.5m $1500.00

Moving water has shadows – where is the light source?

Still water has reflections – what colour are those reflections? Reflections in a lake or river are very slightly lighter than the original object.

The Dam Mirror at Two Figs Retreat. Acrylic on canvas.
‘The Dam Mirror’ at Two Figs Retreat. Acrylic on canvas.
Painting water and flowers
‘Flower Vase’ – Commission

It is very difficult to ‘draw’ water unless there are reference points because it is ephemeral , but it works well with an ink and wash approach, watercolours, acrylics and oils.

Categories: Workshops

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