Waif Mullins: Taking the Plunge

Surprises are the best part of painting. That’s why I love to paint water, because I know if I look carefully enough at it I?ll find something that reveals a whole new visual insight. Water can be any color and, in fact, many colors at once. To re-create this phenomenon in pastels I follow a slow, analytical process, for the best surprises are usually discovered only with plenty of investigation and patience.


5’7″ (pastel, 26-1/2×41)

I begin my approach to color with a few questions. First, what?s the dominant color family in the scene? I may see red, for instance, but red is really a family of colors ranging from warm orange-red to cool violet-red. Second, what?s the dominant color within that family, and is it warm or cool? Once I determine this, I can compare the relative value of the colors on my palette to the color I want to represent and try to match it. Because value adjustments can also diminish intensity, I question the relative intensity of the desired color last.


Sea Ranch (pastel, 8×12)

The key to painting water convincingly is the ripples. Exactly what’s reflected by each part of the surface depends on the circumstances, but the secret to determining this is the color. If the sky is blue and there are figures and foliage in the background, each will be reflected in some part of the water as the ripples turn at a certain angle to the viewer. I always begin painting a body of water with large areas of tone, and often I’ll often work the other elements of the painting (the figures or surrounding landscape) to near completion before going any further. First I want to be sure all the design elements of the painting are working together, and then I’ll try to understand the structural qualities of the water?s surface and the complex pattern of reflections.

Claudia Nice is a self-taught artist who works in multiple media, but prefers pen and ink and watercolor. She’s the author of several books for North Light Books. The Sandy, Oregon-based artist is also a workshop teacher and is currently offering two-day sketching seminars each month (except in winter) with in-the-field instruction on such topics as “Wildflowers” and “Wild Rivers.”

David Rosenthal of Cincinnati, Ohio, has had an interest in photography for 10 years. But it was about four years ago that he decided to devote more time to developing his talent. Most of his training has been book- learned with guidance from idols Edward Weston, Alfred Stieglitz and Ansel Adams. When he’s not in the darkroom or out on a shoot, he likes to spend time with his wife, Andrea, and two daughters, Eva and Mae.

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