Painting Water in Pastel
Painting water is a complicated subject, probably more so than any other landscape subject. It requires the most planning of all the landscape elements. With painting water in pastel or in any other medium, you first must slow down and observe. What you’ll find is that you start to see what is really there, and not just what you think you see. (HINT: Water is not always blue.)
How does this water look so real?
Artist Liz Haywood-Sullivan is a master at painting realistic landscapes. Her lessons on the layers of transparency from her Paint Realistic Landscapes in Pastel: Water & Reflections art instruction video break down each layer of water, so you can see water as it really is. Seeing water in this way will give you insight into how you can go about painting water in pastel for realistic effects.
Four Layers of Water
- The bottom of the water: rocks and sand
- The body of water: the color of the water itself as it is affected by its surroundings and what lies beneath
- Reflections on top of water: trees, sky, or other things that reflect onto the top of the water
- The top layer or the water: moving currents, glints of light, ripples, and splashes
Layer 1-2: Water’s Bottom and Color of Water
Underpaint light greens for sunlight filtering through trees. Use dark greens in shadows, and warm oranges where the sun strikes the sandy bottom.
Layer 2-3: Color of Water & Reflections
Add the first layers of pastel to enhance the colors established in the underpainting. Then use slightly darker, or duller, versions of the surrounding landscape elements to start laying in the reflections from trees and grasses.
Layer 4: Highlights on Top of Water
The top layer or the water is where all the texture and movement is captured. Use different marks to capture moving currents, glints of light, ripples, and splashes.
Watch this preview of Liz at work. Learn how to underpaint value and color for maximum results. Plus, how to paint in realistic reflections from Paint Realistic Landscapes in Pastel: Water & Reflections. Then learn the process of painting water in pastel alongside Liz by downloading Paint Realistic Landscapes in Pastel.