Going Beneath The Surface: How to Paint Water

Water is mesmerizing, and never ceases to amaze with its beauty and dynamic nature, which is why we’ve put together this exclusive e-magazine on how to paint water: Painting Water With Oil, Watercolor, and Pastel. Featured artist Charlene Gerrish is attracted to the reflections of water surfaces. “In many of my watercolor paintings of water,” she says, “I focus almost solely on the reflections, because that’s where the strongest graphic possibilities lie. I love when a painting looks like an abstract design up close, but reveals its true subject at a distance.

“Generally, I work from light to dark, using frisket to save whites if necessary. In paintings such as Ripple Effect, I pour paint for large areas of water, then airbrush some of the ripples in the bright blue water. In this piece, I also used the airbrush to spatter paint for the sand alongside the lagoon.”

Watercolor painting by Charlene Gerrish

Ripple Effect (watercolor on paper) by Charlene Gerrish

Painting Water With Oil, Watercolor, and Pastel includes tips from Gerrish, John Salminen, Eric Zener (whose work is featured below), and step-by-step demonstrations for realistic water scenes. In the following excerpt by Deborah Secor, you get an inside look at how Zener accomplishes paintings such as Summer Veil (below).

mixed media painting by Eric Zener

Summer Veil (mixed media, 41×71) by Eric Zener

“He begins with an underpainting that is really a drawing in black, blue and white paint to lock in the form and the lighting. After the block-in dries, he paints wet-into-wet in oil from the farthest point in the background to the foreground. ‘I have to commit to the time required to paint major blocks in one session to keep the wet-into-wet blending,’ says Zener. To give his oil paintings a glossy, wet look, he coats the finished pieces with Soluvar varnish, mixing half matte with half gloss. Varnish is important because it conveys a shimmering effect. ‘A big part of what I’m trying to paint is the light, especially the sensation of light in the depths underwater,’ he says.

“To take photographs underwater, Zener wraps his camera in a plastic box. He uses these photos for a second, more experimental process that entails pouring resin over photo transparencies. How does this process work? He starts with a photograph in which ‘the source, quality and resolution are intentionally full of imperfections.’ He explains: ‘It’s not the photo’s quality that’s important, but rather the impact of the image and ultimately what I do to it in the resin and painting process. The photo is just the DNA of the image.’ Next Zener takes the original digital print, enlarges it, then prints it onto transparent film, creating a huge (48×60-inch, for instance) transparency. Then he constructs and primes a hardwood box over which he usually applies a layer of gold or silver leaf. ‘I cover that preliminary layer of metal leaf with one layer or more of eX-74–a transparent epoxy resin, which is an extremely clear, tough, high-gloss surface coating formulated to produce a deep, glasslike appearance in a single layer on a sealed surface,’ Zener says. He may apply two layers of resin or 10, depending on the painting. Then Zener affixes the transparency to the resin-coated panel, applies more resin, and paints over that with lithography inks that are thinned with mineral spirits. He uses Graphic Chemical & Ink lithography/monotype inks that have a high pigment load and easy ‘rollout capabilities,’ as he says.” ~DS

You can see from this sneak peek within the e-magazine that the content is both diverse and instructional. Click here to download Painting Water With Oil, Watercolor, and Pastel at 40% off, and browse the entire North Light Shop here.

Warm regards,
Cherie

Cherie Haas, online editor**Free download: Oil Painting Tips for Beginners: Learn How to Oil Paint!
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