Water, water everywhere

One of my goals this summer was to learn to depict water convincingly.  As I studied the play of light on the surface of water in so many of its different moods, and attempted to reproduce the appearance on paper, I discovered that although water does have a natural color of its own, it is better to illustrate it obliquely than directly.

Lakeside Cottage

What do I mean by that?  Water’s character, like that of any other subject, is revealed in the form and character of the reflections and shadows that play across the surface and in its depths.  Water’s transparency provides an extra dimension that opaque subjects don’t have.

Among other things,  though water is transparent, it does have color.  This means that ripples on the surface of the water itself create shadow patterns on underlying surfaces, through which the water’s natural hue is revealed.  In shallow water the natural color is usually so pale as to seem utterly colorless.  Yet deeper water may reveal it to be quite green or turquoise or a purpley-blue.

Though I have heard various explanations for this phenomenon, I am inclined to believe it is due to the variety of minerals dissolved in the water in different locales and the organisms that live in it.  When it’s laden with sand or mud, of course, it carries the color of the soil, as well.  For the purposes of painting, the cause is less important than how it affects the overall appearance to be depicted.

In the painting Lakefront Cottage (#100608), shown above, the water is relatively shallow, so it reveals little of its natural color influence.  Instead, the reflections depict the colors of the plantings and structures on the land, while the shadows in the ripples pick up underlying colors of sand and stone.  The reflections are broken and extended to suggest the rippling surface.  The sky is reflected in the light areas amid the reflections and ripple shadows.  Unlike shadows, which fall in the direction opposite the light source, the lights and darks of reflections are aligned directly underneath their counterparts, with appropriately mirrored angles.   Reflections are broken to the extent that the water’s surface is disturbed.  Quieter water would create sharper-edged, less broken reflections, whereas a wind-riffled surface might show no more than an overall dark/light reflection pattern with no reflected detail at all.

Tags: , , , ,

2 Responses to “Water, water everywhere”

  1. Liana says:

    The water looks great as well as the entire painting.

  2. Charlotte says:

    It’s a continuing study, as is the rest of the medium. So far it seems to be paying off. Thanks for the positive comment.

Leave a Reply