Thursday, March 28, 2013

Going with the Flow

A Little River Music I, pastel, 8x10
We began a series on moving water in my pastel classes this week. I've been putting off teaching this topic, since I haven't painted very much of this subject matter in the past. But I decided it was time, and so I had to do a bit of homework before teaching this class. This involves pouring through every resource I have that would show great examples of artists who excel at painting this subject matter.

As I studied some worthy examples, I made two key observations of falling water:
1) The lightest value of the water is in the center of the waterfall area, where the mass of the water is most concentrated. The thinner areas, especially where some of the rock/ground from behind shows through, are slightly darker in value, although in some areas, this value shift is very slight...but important to capture!
2) The color temperature is warmest in that same area where the water is lightest in value. This is because the water is the most reflective of sunlight where it's most concentrated. The thinner areas surrounding the more concentrated part are cooler. Just as with snow, a combination of warms and cools is necessary to convey the water's reflective quality.

Also regarding the mix of warms and cools, darker versions of the colors already used in the water can then be used in the darker rocks in order to harmonize your color. The sections of the rocks catching direct sunlight reflect warmer light, and areas facing away are cooler in temperature.

Below are a few progression shots from my demo of "A Little River Music I," my demo from Wednesday's class. I began with a mostly monochromatic underpainting, but added a few colors chosen based on ultimate placement of warms and cools.

Shown below is "round two" of this class, done for my Thursday class. I decided to change up a the color palette a bit by adding some warmer blues and a touch of orange into the mix.

A Little River Music II, pastel, 8x10


  1. Wow, this turned out beautifully! I'm always avoiding painting waterfalls and fountains.

    1. Thanks, Sherry! I've avoided this subject matter in the past, too. But, as with painting anything, it helps to observe it in terms of shapes, values, color temperature and hard/soft edges, rather than "water," in which case you're mind tries to tell you it should look a certain way instead of what you're actually observing.

  2. That is absolutely beautiful! I hope to take a class with you before year-end.

    1. Thanks, Judy! I'd be happy to have you take one of my classes! Please let me know if I can answer any questions about any of them that I have scheduled.