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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Paintings I Haven't Done Yet--Water

Copyright, Jim Lane
Hues of Canoes, Croatia, 2013
No painter can really call themselves an artist who has not learned to "handle" water. Painting water is far more than blue paint with some degree of modulating texture intended to give it movement. The source photo, Hues of Canoes (above) has only tiny "snippets" of very light blue highlights on what is, for the most part, one or two subtle shades of olive green. The highlights do little more than indicate the current of the stream. Water is reflective, sometimes almost, but not quite, to the same degree as a mirror in the same position. It reflects the predominant hues in the environment plus the occasion up-side-down images of whatever my be near it, in it, or resting on it (as with the subtle, rust-tinted reflection of the red canoe).

Copyright, Jim Lane
Swimmers on the Rocks, 2013 along the Aegean coast not far
from Dubrovnik.
That's not to say water is never blue, nor should never be blue (notice the greenish tints toward the foreground). Actually most water is painted with one or more bluish pigments. I'm fond of cerulean used with pthalo or Prussian blues. I detest cobalt blue. I seldom see it in nature, and it is too intense for most uses. However, it goes without saying that in nature, as in art, there are blues, and then there are blues. Anyone painting water has to be quite sensitive as to both intensity and the relative warmth or coolness of their blues. Blue is naturally cool, almost the epitome of cool...even cold. But it takes little, to derive a warm blue, often quite common in skies and thus, the waters beneath them. Notice that, like the sky, the water's tint varies toward lighter shades as it nears the horizon. That's the result of aerial perspective. During daytime hours, water may not always be blue, but air above it most often is.

Copyright, Jim Lane
The Marina, near Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, 2015.
Other than perhaps the time of day, nothing effects the rendering of water more than weather conditions. Above, the water is virtually the same hue, though shaded only somewhat darker as the stormy sky above. I won't say an artist should never adjust the sky for the sake of a "prettier" shade of blue in his water, (a photo editing computer program can help in this regard) but keep in mind, any such attempt is one of the "trickier" adjustments a painter can make in that the sky coloration also effects virtually everything else in the painting in ways only the most color sensitive painter's eye will notice. Whites items are especially prone to reflecting such changes.

Copyright, Jim Lane
Dubrovnik Marina
Now, compare the deep blues of the Dubrovnik Marina (above) with those of foggy San Francisco. Shades of gray do still come into play near the boats but the shaded sides of the white boats come across as rather "dead" without a subtle bluish tint. In the case of more Expressionist renderings, the bluish tints on the boats and elsewhere can become anything but subtle. The painter of water must also learn to handle the distorted reflection of that which is in the water. Besides providing a realistic, or at least naturalistic quality to the scene, such reflections can often be more interesting for the viewer than the boats themselves.

Copyright, Jim Lane
Slooping Around, off the Baja coast, 2016
The image above and that below dramatically demonstrate the differences between a warm blue (above) and the much more drab, cooler blue (below) of the vessel near the famous Baja rocky landmark. In the upper photo, the blues tend slightly toward green while those seen in the photo below take on a purplish shade, in both cases, all the result of the influence of the sky above. Be careful not to overplay reflections in the water. In both these photos they are practically non-existant. Never exaggerate or add reflections unless "documented" in your resource photo or personal observation.

Copyright, Jim Lane
Cabo San Lucas on the Mexican Riviera, 2016
As the ninth group in this series, like the others, these photos are available free of charge for use by painters as source material for their own work on an individual basis. Simply e-mail me with a request to do so at and indicate which photo you would like to use as well as your full name (no nicknames) and geographical location. If you have a website, include the URL; and please, when finished, e-mail me a photo of your painting. These images are not for publication as photos (except on a royalty basis) nor are they in the public domain.

Copyright, Jim Lane
Blue? What blue? We don't need no stinkin' blue!
A private garden in the Azores.


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