Water Reflections



90 min

What you need:

Oil pastels
The attraction in this image resides in its abstract quality. The complexity of form and color transform this reference image into visual candy. This project offers the opportunity to learn how to portray reflections in water. Also, it shows how to make sense of complicated subject matter: editing confusing and unnecessary information.

Step 1

Begin by creating a construction drawing, building up slowly with a light line and then progressing towards a heavier line. Separate major masses and shapes, trying to make sense of all the information. It isn’t necessary to draw every rope, rather focus on the major information that needs to be defined. Don’t hesitate to edit some of the mess and confusion. The use of a little spray fixative helps the graphite from smearing.

Step 2 & 3

Landscapes and natural settings benefit from a base of ultramarine blue. So make a transparent mixture of ultramarine blue acrylic paint and matte medium to seal the drawing.

In this step, start the process of separating the figure/ground relationship, separating the boats from the environment. Using light blue, block in the sky, and then using cobalt blue, block in the blue of the water.

Step 4 & 5

Next, add white in the sky, starting a gradient from light to dark, from the bottom up. Bring the white into the water to adjust color. Then with ultramarine blue oil pastel, darken the top of the sky, smudging a bit with your fingers, leaving some of the marks. Also add ultramarine blue oil pastel to the bottom of the image to darken the water a little. Add dark brown to the reflections and then smudge with the finger. Be careful not to accidentally make green by mixing colors. A little dark brown was added to the sails. Then with Vandyke brown, start defining the darks. Finally, use your fingers to smudge all the areas just laid in, closing any gaps and making sure the paper doesn’t show through.

Using olive green, add the foliage on the horizon line and smudge. Then, mix a little brown and olive green for the hill in the far background. The pale blue line on the boat is added next. Use orange for the underside of the boat in the foreground. For the reflection, use cadmium orange, gradating to orange as you work away from the boat. Touches of cadmium orange and orange are then used throughout.

Step 6 & 7

Dark blue is used over most of the Vandyke brown and in the darks. Blend with your fingers and smudge away any gaps. Finally, make corrections as necessary with the other colors already used.

For this step, add olive green for the flag. Continue adding darks that had been missed as you move on with dark blue and Vandyke brown. Add little touches and details of deep green around the piece. Work on the reflections in the water, first with white, then brown, and pale blue. Layer colors, blend them, go back and forth, varying the colors. The white is heavily layered and used to lighten colors that had gradations of value.

Step 8 & 9

Continue working on the reflections. With white, start in on the boats and sails. Add brown color to the middle of the boat. Next, with delicate care, begin to build the light on the sails, adding ropes with Vandyke brown and alternating with white. Add yellow to the bottom of the foreground boat; place it next to the white, just a little for the glow. Also, use yellow n the few ropes and poles that have that Color. 

In the last step, add black in the foreground. You need to be careful, to not go too heavy, watching your marks, making them look good. Then, dance through the piece, looking for little details and  corrections. Pump up the opacity and thickness of the colors, adding little specifics like ropes, small shadow shapes, and smaller details.


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Excerpt from "Pastel Basics", published by Walter Foster Publishing, a division of Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc. All rights reserved. Walter Foster is a registered trademark. Artwork © Alain Picard. Visit www.quartoknows.com