The Shape of Light on Water #5


This week I concentrated on adding watercolour to my pencil drawing of a water splash from last week.

Here’s the drawing I started with…


First I masked my absolute highlights with masking fluid.  Then I used a graded wash of phthalo blue and viridian green but I kept it really light and pulled out some colour with my brush where I wanted the light to come through.  Then I added some slightly darker washes to the shadowed areas…


I then added paynes grey and a touch of ultramarine blue to the greeny blue colour I was already using and began to push the darks darker and add to the darker shades of the pencil.  I did each bit seperately so there was time before each bit dried to pull a gradient out of the dark colours where I wanted it.  This was so much fun to do!

Finally I worked on balancing the tones and pulling the picture together as a whole.  It was mostly there already but a I did push the main sine wave form across the front of the picture a little more.

Here’s the result…



Now when my son saw it this time his comment was “Wow – that’s so looks like water now!!!”  – Result!   😀


The Shape of Light on Water #4

This week I was looking at how water splashes.  I began by looking through about 50 different splash photographs to find what kind of water splash I wanted and to get a feel for the way water bends and focuses light.  Then I used a combination of the best five or six and adapted them into my final original design.

Here’s the start of the drawing.  I made an overall light sketch of the general areas and then completed most of the tones in each section before moving on…



Here’s the final pencil drawing…


I used my graphgear 1000 for most of it and filled in the greyer tones with another 2B mechanical pencil.

Graphgear 1000

As it goes I feel pleased with how it looks although my son couldn’t see it as a splash until I told him what it was so I’m clearly not quite there yet.  I do think it’s an improvement on last week’s effort though.

The more I look at the finished pencils the more it cries out to be painted.  Do I dare mess with it further?

Well yes!!!  If you can’t follow your heart in painting then where can you?!  I know it might be “hit by anti-aircraft guns” again but I’m going to give it a go anyway.


The Shape of Light on Water #3

This week I worked on a more abstract approach to water.  I was looking at ripples and reflections.

Here’s the piece…


I used W&N Watercolours, masking fluid and some white Gouache.

At school we ask the children to evaluate their work with a thing called ‘Two Stars and a Wish’ which means think of two things you are pleased with about your work and one thing you would like to change.  So my two stars are, I like the colours and I like the shapes generally.  My wish is that I wish it looked like water!!!!

Sometimes in my life as an artist I feel a lot like Bill Watterson’s character Calvin from his famous  and brilliant comic strip ‘Calvin and Hobbes’

“Hit by antiaircraft guns.” – Watterson’s a genius.

The Shape of Light on Water #2


This is another painting I attempted in my work towards learning how to paint water.

I saw a great video on YouTube by a really good watercolourist called Steven Cronin.  (Here is his channel.)

This is his video:


I thought I would try to follow his technique and see if I could paint a version of the same thing.  Please note this was just a study to help me learn how to do it.

His painting was using only one colour – a mix of blue and payne’s grey.  But I wanted to add a colour for the light rather than just relying on the white of the paper.  So I added a yellow.

Here’s my version:


I couldn’t quite get it like Steven Cronin’s picture  – I don’t have his control of paint from a big brush.  To try to work around this I made a few changes to the way I painted it.  I used a wet on dry technique after the wet on wet phase to give sharper edges to the hills around the lake and I used a wet brush on the almost dry forground to pull out some shadow reflections.   All of that said, I think it does bear a likeness to Steven’s work and I can read the image as a picture of water.  So that’s a step forward!

Thanks Steven!!!


The Shape of Light on Water #1


I’ve been unwell for a few weeks.  Up until now my posts have been already written and scheduled weeks before they were published so it’s all worked automatically.  However now I have run out.  I am feeling better but I’m still waiting to see if my doctor will give me an operation so I’m not up to much in the way of painting.  (I was too ill for the surgery I was due to have earlier this week.)

So I’m going to post some stuff this week from last summer when I was inspired by a beautiful holiday on a boat in Norfolk.  None of the following pictures are really finished works – instead it’s a record of my progress in trying to paint water.

I became fascinated with the shape of water and the way light reflects from it while we were on the boat.  But, try as I might, I found water very diffcult to draw.  At first I couldn’t even really see clearly what I was looking at because it was moving and changing all the time.  So I studied still photos of bodies of water and tried to see the pattern.

My first go at painting this was fairly poor…



It seems to me that my boat is sailing on some gently rippling cotton material rather than water!  The gold paint was my attempt to salvage the painting, with little success.

Then I had a go with pencils.  I used Faber Castell Aquarelles.  With this picture I was looking to simplify the patterns I could see in my photographs so I limited myself to three colours.



I lost control of the blues in places and they’ve kind of leaked into the other colours.  I’m not sure if this worked with or against the likeness of water but either way I didn’t like it.  So I next decided to try the same picture again using gouache paint where I could be stronger with my colour boundaries…



In this picture for the first time I could see something of a likeness to water despite it being quite sylised.

Progress – hooray!


Next week I’ve got another painting on the same theme of water where I followed a tutorial / demo from a guy called Steve Cronin on YouTube.


Loose Feel Watercolour Koi


I’ve been fascinated this week with watching koi.  They are such graceful fish.  It’s very hard to know which is my favourite but a pure white Tancho with a circular red Hi mark never fails to make me gasp.  (This is a plain white fish with a red circle on it’s forehead.)

So I had another go at painting a Koi with watercolour.  I began with a simple sketch…




Then added some masking fluid and changed my Koi to a butterfly Koi…




Then I painted him…


I didn’t stick to any breed type as I wanted to let the colour flow.


Grand Trevally


I’ve been watching Blue Planet 2 in the last few weeks (I have a bit of a marine biology thing going on recently, so this was just perfect.)  So much of the cinematography in that show was spectacular.  They were the kind of images which make you ache inside, the very best I’ve ever seen.

So I’ve been trying to paint some of them.  It’s tricky because the photography from this BBC team is so good that I don’t think art can take it any further.  Their stuff is perfect as it is.  It doesn’t stop me wanting to try though.

Here’s a picture I painted recently of these fish which were catching some fledgling sea birds in the TV show.  I think the fish are Grand Trevally or something similar.

I began with a pencil drawing over which I painted some simple washes…

I used some masking fluid for the clouds.

Then finally I painted in the fish and added some highlighs with white gouache.

Axolotl – watercolour sketch


This week I made a quick sketch of an Axolotl – one of my favourite animals.

I’m still trying to find ways to make watercolour look as real as I can but without it looking like a photograph.  It’s a difficult line to walk.

Here’s my axolotl…


I think I’ll call him Adrian.   🙂


Mandrill – Pencil Drawing


One of my favourite books of all time is a Dorling Kindersley book called “Animal  A Definitive Visual Guide”.

I’ve got an older edition…


I find it endlessly fascinating to look through and actually keep it on the floor next to my bed (it’s too big for the bed-side table) so I can dip into it on a daily basis.

The picture on the front of this edition is of a Mandrill.  I find it really startling.  So one night I sketched it in pencil and then coloured it also in pencil (using Prisma Color).  The only issue I had was that I was working in my watercolour sketchbook so the paper was too bumpy for the smooth fine detail finish I wanted.

When I get some time and energy I’d like to redo this picture on bristol board.  I think it would really make it work.

Here’s the sketch with the beginning of of the colour…

Because the picture I was using as reference was only a partial shot of the face of the Mandrill I also used other reference material to make this sketch.

Here’s the final coloured drawing.  You can see how the grain of the paper interferes with the detail of the picture.  It was very enjoyable to draw though!



Working with pencils instead of paint gave me a lot more control of each stroke as even my finest brush won’t make a mark as thin as a pencil can.  That said my control of colour was limited to the colours I had in my set and my ability to blend them.  I think I still prefer paint overall but maybe mixed media might be something I could try with some paint and some pencil.