Once the center of interest is established, I know how much or little to develop in the rest of the composition. Most of this step involves creating more depth and movement in the water in the background. That area is mostly negative space so I don’t want to give it too much contrast so that it becomes positive space. I applied very light washes of Manganese Blue in the top and then some warmer Cobalt Blue and finally some Ultramarine Blue as I came forward in the painting.
I painted over some of the white spaces and left others depending on the movement that I wanted.
There was a little too much cool color and not enough warm color, so I put a warmer wash on the light side of some rocks to balance the temperature.
Establishing the center of interest is the next step. Defining the movement of the water and adding contrast and color near the center area. The key was darkening the water at the base of the large rock to soften the edge.
The shapes of the white spaces to create the movement is critical. Once the white of the paper is eliminated, you can’t get it back unless you resort to scraping and tearing of the paper. As I mentioned, this paper is very soft once the surface size is removed, and will tear easily. I will do some scratching in this area but not until I adjust the white spaces in other parts of the painting. It is amazing how white the whites appear once you get rid of all of the other whites.
The whites that I will keep will be for indication of movement.
The third step is actually the first step of the block-in, which establishes the areas of light, middle and dark values, creating the pattern of the composition. When I painted the lower portion of the composition, I had to keep in mind that I wanted it to be a dark valued area, but not as dark as my darkest part which is the large rock near the top.
Each area of value has a light, middle and dark value. So, this area had to be darker than the value of the rocks on the left side of the painting because I want those to be a middle value, but not as dark as the darkest value.
When I finished this step, I noticed that the darkest rock had a shape that looked like a submarine stuck in the rocks. Planning is the key to a good painting! So, I added a dark shape behind it to disguise the sub. I will do a bit more in the following steps.
A common problem in painting is that you can get too fixed in subject, style and process. Experimentation is always good to keep from getting into that rut. Another thing that you can do is switch mediums.
Every few years I take a break from watercolor painting and switch to oil painting. The process of painting in oils is the opposite of painting in watercolor (paint light to dark in watercolor, and paint dark to light in oil painting) which forces me to think about what I am doing.
Now it is time to switch back to watercolor painting and thinking light to dark once again.
Because of the pandemic, I had much more time to paint. These are the oil paintings that I completed over the past three months.
Near the finish line, I made one last check on all of the values, colors, temperature, intensity and textures.
Completing the painting is attending to the the details–such as adding more rigging to the sails and more detail to the items on the deck of the ship. Done.
The next painting in the planning stages will be my favorite subject–a waterfall.
In this stage of the painting I added more of the rigging in the ship. Again, the drying time is critical in oil painting. Most of the rigging is a dark value which will dry faster than the light values in the background.
Once the rigging was dry, I finished painting the water behind the ship.
I added color in the foreground water to create more movement. Water is relatively "soft" and should have soft edges. Because that area was not yet dry, it was easy to blend, achieving the desired effect.
I also altered the color of the reflections on the ship to be consistent with the adjustment in the color of the water.
The next and final step will be to refine the painting, and add a few last details.
As mentioned in the previous step, I concentrated on the water. Why did I make the the temperature of the water warmer in the background instead of cooler, as might be expected? It was important to unify the water with the warm colors in the ship.
Artists have many tools that enable them to create illusions in a painting. To create depth on a two dimensional surface, you can utilize linear perspective, temperature, contrast of value, intensity of color and detail. These are all ways to make objects or areas recede or come forward.
In the images below, #1 shows a warm and cool rectangle. You should perceive the warmer one as being closer to you.
The easiest way to make the warmer color appear to be further back, is overlapping, as illustrated in #2. The blue rectangle is obviously in front of the red rectangle.
Or, as in #3, you can make the warmer rectangle less intense or grayer. More intense colors are perceived to be closer to you.
And #4, contrast of value. Objects that are more contrasting, light against dark, appear closer.
The overlapping of the rigging and the sail of the ship will keep the warmer color in the water from coming forward too much.
There are not too many dark values in this composition, but it was important to establish the darks in the water, in the interior of the ship, and in the rowboat.
The biggest challenge was the water. This is a horizontal plane and to make it look horizontal, I needed to adjust the value from darker to lighter as I painted from foreground to background. The change of value needed to be about 15 percent. Too much of a change would make it look like it is an inclined plane, and too little would make it look like a vertical plane.
At the same time, I wanted the temperature to be warmer in the background–which seems contrary, because warm colors tend to be perceived closer to the viewer, with cooler colors in the distance. I will talk about that in the next step.
In this step I focused on establishing the major elements of the composition–making sure that the proportions and drawing of the ship and rowboat were correct before blocking in the larger negative shapes of the water.
Because the larger areas are lighter in value, I had to add some white paint to my colors. The added white does not dry as quickly, which slows down the process.
Adding light blue in the water itself was not a problem because it will be blended, creating softer edges on a later step.
Waiting for areas to dry gave me more time to establish some of the darker values in the ship and the rowboat.
Next, I began to focus on the larger area of the water.
With the pandemic still raging, I have more time to paint. Every so often I switch from my traditional watercolors to painting in oils. Because it is so different than my usual medium, it makes me concentrate more on what I am doing.
The procedure of painting light to dark in watercolor is the opposite with oil paint. I need to switch my brain into reverse to paint dark to light.
Several years ago, when the tall ships came to Chicago, I went to see them and took several photographs, one of which is below. The subject is actually one that I tried unsuccessfully to paint in watercolors.
I decided on a rather large format -22'x28" on canvas.
The first step in any medium is the drawing. With oil, I prefer to draw with the brush instead of using charcoal. I chose Indian red with turpentine for the drawing because it's a pigment that dries quickly, and allows me to start the painting within a few minutes.
The advantage of oil paints is that they dry very slowly which allows me to make corrections fairly easily. The disadvantage is that they dry very slowly! Unlike watercolor painting, where a layer dries quickly, waiting for a layer of oil paint to dry before putting down another layer takes too much time. I need another option.
Alla Prima (all at once) is my choice. If I paint thin to thick, the thinner paint will dry more quickly, allowing me to continue painting into wet paint.
Wish me luck! Steps to follow.