Here's a brief clip from the Chinaman's Bluff painting lesson at:

Many beginner painters see water and assume it's all blue, or all green, without looking to see what's really going on.

As the water gets closer to us we see less of the reflection of the sky and we see more easily into the depths of the water, revealing whatever is there. We all know that from experience, but often forget it when it comes to painting water.

The keys to painting transparent water effectively are:

1. Don't assume you know how water works. LOOK, and look again. Then SQUINT and look. Take your time.

2. Note what the BIG colour changes are in the water from near to far.

3. Paint those BIG areas first.

4. Then paint the details. Note that details like rocks on the bottom will take on the colour of the water around it. The colours are all very similar in any one area. Another way to say that is that the colour contrast is low and gets lower the further away you look.

eg. The rocks under the water in the foreground here are all very greeny-brown and have a low contrast (their lights are not much lighter than their darks). As we look further away the rocks become bluer and the contrast between their lights and darks gets even less noticeable.

Give it a try!

This is just a small snippet from the longer lesson which you can find here:

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Comment by Mark Brumfield on April 1, 2018 at 15:29

I live right next to the Mississippi , though not transparent , is a great subject for painting and there are some things here to work with . Thasnks .

Comment by Walda Juhl on April 15, 2017 at 9:33

Love this brief but very understandable lesson!  I've been studying "reflections" for the past couple weeks as we have tons of standing water from Spring rains.  This lesson just adds to what I've been seeing.  Thank you, Richard

Comment by Linda McNeill on April 14, 2017 at 18:27
I've always found painting water very difficult, hopefully by following these tips , I should make a better job of it. Thank you, Richard.
Comment by Steinunn Einarsdottir on April 13, 2017 at 23:36

Thanks Richard, you make it look so simple.:)

Comment by Luz A. Montoya on April 13, 2017 at 14:54

Easy explanation, beautiful paintings!

Comment by Dorian Aronson on April 13, 2017 at 14:42



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