Friday, January 23, 2015

Painting Luminous, Transparent Reflections

"How do I paint this reflection" is a question that comes up frequently. So while the snow flies outside, I've made a cup of tea and have a chocolate chip cookie that our family packed for us before we left Wilmington, NC  (where it was 70' yesterday), so let's see what happens!

Cloud Patterns on the Lake     

A reflection is literally a mirror image. The shapes being reflected are in reverse. The reflected objects on water are always darker OR lighter than the objects they are reflecting. 

     A good rule of thumb is that lighter objects will reflect darker, and darker objects will reflect lighter. However, be aware that the darkest reflection cannot be as dark as the darkest reality. Direct observation in nature will illustrate this. It is difficult to tell from a photograph.

This is how I painted these reflected clouds:

- I completed the "reality" from the sky to the shoreline.
-  then I lightly sketched in the cloud shapes. I don't want the pencil line to show so I keep it very light.
-  I mixed up several colors that I expected to use in the reflections. It's very important to have the same amount of pigment and water in each mixture so that you can control the edges of each shape as you paint them
-    beginning at the left hand side by the shore, I took my time and painted each shape, wet paint on dry paper, moving from one shape, color and value to another.
-   Because I am painting one shape next to another, the edges merge softly and look like water. If I see that an edge is beginning to dry before I can paint the adjacent shape, I soften that drying edge with a damp brush so that I can come back to it and continue with a soft edge.

BE CAREFUL NOT TO HAVE EXTRA WATER ON YOUR BRUSH when you do this as it will run into the adjacent shape and create "blooms". 
 It isn't necessary to paint fast; BUT you must watch the edges of each shape and keep it damp so that you can paint up to it.

Water also distorts the reflection if there is any movement. Ripples and waves will distort the shape of the reflected object. Rippled water is like looking at series of tilted mirrors.

I think you can see in this painting that although the water is only slightly disturbed, that the edges of the reflected clouds are "broken" or irregular. 

Detail of plein air watercolor
In this example, you can see that the color of the sand under the water affects the colors that are seen in the reflection.
This is a painting of mud flats at low tide with the sky and clouds reflected on the wet mud. 
 These reflections were painted using the same technique as the cloud reflections.  

Additionally, when the reflections were dry, I added a few sunlit spots with white gouache. This helps add "sparkle" to the water - almost like little bubbles. 
You can also add these sparkles with masking fluid before beginning. Paint the tiny shapes carefully, and also spatter tiny sparkles with a toothbrush. 
This is another example of how the underlying colors of the wet mud affect the colors of the reflections. Although these reflections are seen on the sea bed rather than on clear water, I use the same method to paint them.

The main difference is that I also added wet in wet marks on the damp pigment to create the look of seaweed, stones, and the myriad textures of the wet seabed.

Evening Sky Reflected on the Bay 
22 x 30"
Private Collection 

If you turn this painting upside down, it reads perfectly well with a low horizon line and the painting becomes all about the sky rather than the bay.

When painting wet shapes one after another in a large size it's necessary to plan how you are going to tackle it.
For this painting, I made sure that I mixed up all of the colors that I wanted to include in the watery reflection.  
Then, using a large brush (always use the biggest one you can use for the shape you are painting), I began at the horizon line, and painting wet pigment on dry paper, I loaded my brush with a lot of pigment and water and painted each area one after another until I reached the bottom of the painting.

Where I wanted to increase the value of a shape, I "charged" more pigment mixture into it before it began to dry. Once these shapes begin to dry, it's best not to try to go back into them to make changes. Wait until it's totally dry, and then re-paint, using a very light hand, and keeping the edges softly merged. 

I hope this inspires you to try some reflections. I suggest that you try four quarter sheets with different compositions, and practice. In a nutshell:
- mix your colors with the same amount of pigment and water.
- after you clean your brush, lay it on a sponge or towel to take   out the excess water so that you don't alter the proportions of pigment and water in your mixtures.
- mix more pigment mixtures than you think you need.
- don't go back into damp washes; if you must make a change in that shape, wait until it's dry, re-wet and paint again.

Have fun and let me know how it goes!


Saturday, January 3, 2015

Expecting the Polar Vortex? I Have another Idea!

Today is the lull before the storm! We are promised another January Polar Vortex and you won't be surprised to read that this took my imagination straight to the sunny Costa Brava of Spain.
So, instead of this:

 I am anticipating this!


Please visit the Frenchescape website to read all of the details and sign up to join our group.

I promise you that you have a great time and go home with a new excitement and skill level in your painting.

 Here's a recommendation from a very accomplished artist who attended my workshop in Ireland last year:

Our time together painting in Ireland has influenced how I paint in a rather profound way. I knew it then, after the Retreat, but you never know how it will hold up. I can now confidently say, 3 months later, it has a lasting impact. You are an extraordinary teacher in the ways you are able to divine where each student is in their process, and adapt what you know to share productively and successfully with them. I am a drawing teacher; I know a good teacher when I meet one, and you are one. Thank you!
Susan McC. North Carolina  

You might ask why I chose the Costa Brava for my September 2015 workshop when I was also offered Italy, France, Switzerland, Holland and Belgium. They were all beautiful and another time I'd love to go there. But when I saw the photos of the medieval villages of Calella de Palafrugell and Pals, the decision was made.
We will be painting in these medieval villages, at gorgeous views on the beach, gardens, and at a hidden gem amongst all other villages along the Northern Costa Brava. The village of Calella de Palafrugell is made up of endless rocks, cliffs and extremely beautiful beaches.

On another day we will paint in Pals, an unique Preserved Medieval Village  
As you walk through the narrow village streets, next to the city walls, towers and churches, you will feel as though you have walked into a new time altogether.
The stone archways, cobblestone streets and wrought balconies adorned with flowers create a welcoming feel in this Romanesque village.

 We will be transported to our painting site each day by Jackie Grandchamps who has become known for her small group individualized workshops.

and scroll down to September 2015 to learn about my workshop.
To register for the workshop, send an email to Jackie Grandchamps at;

And then there's the 
 Jardi Botanic de Cap Roig. It is considered one of the most important botanical gardens in the Mediterranean.

For those who are interested we will go to see the largest surrealistic object in the world created by Dali, the Dalí Theatre-Museu in the town of Figueres, his birthplace.
Visit the website: Frenchescape to read the complete brochure. Just click on Painting Tours, then Barcelona/Spain and scroll down to September 23 - 30th for my workshop.
We will have a tour leader throughout and when we say throughout, we really mean it. From breakfast till dinner, our guide will be with us at all time. She will eat with us, translate for us, drive us, take care of us and make our stay a one-of-a-kind experience.
On our art workshops, the tour leader will bring us lunch so we don't have to stop painting, she will drive us to the painting locations and she will accompany us to shops and museums when we are done painting.
Because of the small group environment, we will be driven in a air conditioned 9 seater van, not in a huge monster motor coach. The guide/driver will stop anytime for pictures or any other stop needs we request.
We'll will be driven to the painting sites, so no need to carry your painting supplies on long walks.

To register for the workshop, send an email to Jackie Grandchamps

So, back to
enjoying winter in Maine whilst anticipating the pleasures of Spain next September. I'll be hoping to see you!

My very best wishes for a grand New Year. May you be well and enjoy all of the blessings of life.

Evelyn Dunphy Studio
596 Foster Point Road
West Bath, ME 04530

Friday, January 2, 2015

Painting a Starry Sky

As I prepared to respond to the emails that I've received from artists who asked how I painted the sky in the painting "Wild Song," I thought that it may be of interest to you as well, so I have turned it into our first lesson of 2015 - can you believe it!

Here is the painting:

Materials used:
  • a full sheet (22 x 30") 300# Arches cold press paper.
  • Daniel Smith paints: Permanent Rose, Quinacridone Magenta, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Phthalo Green, Ultramarine Blue, Phthalo Blue Red Shade
  • Masking Fluid
  • Toothbrush and different size brushes for spattering masking fluid. 
I wanted to create a very dark sky that had multiple levels of color and the illusion of the Milky Way. At a distance it would look almost black, but as you look closer you can see the variations of warm and cool dark values.

NOTE:   Before using any Masking fluid, remember to have a dish of diluted dishwater detergent or a small bar of soap available so that you can dip or rub your toothbrush or brush into it before dipping into the masking fluid. As you work with the masking fluid, your brush may get clogged; be sure to rinse it well and then dip again and continue masking or spattering. When you are finished, clean the brush thoroughly in soapy water. I keep some brushes just for using with masking fluid. It's a good idea to practice on a piece of paper before spattering on your painting as there is a lot of variety in how the spatter will look, depending on how the size of the brush, and whether you have water on your brush along with the masking fluid, as well as how high you hold the brush over the paper.
I want to be clear about the process of masking, painting and removing masking for this kind of effect. You could remove the masking after each new color, OR you could continue to mask and paint in layers, not removing the masking until the very end. It all depends on what you want to achieve. There is only one way to find out, and that is to do it! If you were to do this, I think you would want to remove the masking after three or four layers of masking and paint. Then you could continue if you wanted to add more paint. 

  • I masked out the coyote shapes and then spattered Masking Fluid on the dry paper. First I used a toothbrush in order to get many very small spatters. Then I put the masking on a brush and spattered larger droplets of masking fluid.
  • Dry the masking completely. I don't use a hair dryer, just let it dry naturally.
    STEP 2
    Next, I dampened some areas of the paper and dropped in dark valued mixtures of Permanent Rose and then Quinacridone Magenta, as in this photo. Soften the edges so there are no hard lines and leave the paint to dry completely.  

    • Next, I spattered Masking Fluid again. First I used a toothbrush in order to get many very small spatters. Then I put the masking on a brush and spattered larger droplets of masking fluid.
    • I removed the masking.

    • Dry the masking completely.
    • STEP 3
      • Again, dampen some other areas of the paper next to the rose and magenta, overlapping the edges slightly and drop in darker values of the rose and magenta. Add alizarin crimson to add another variety of dark red. Try to keep some of each color "pure" so that they do not just all mix together at this stage. Also keep the values dark so that you don't have to add more layers than necessary.

      STEP 4
      • Dry completely, remove the masking, and spatter again. Be sure to change "tools" to get different size spatters, otherwise it can start to look monotonous.
      STEP 5  
    • Continue to repeat these steps using the ultramarine blue and phthalo blue and phthalo green. Remove the spatter after each new color has been added and dried, mask again and then apply more color until you are happy with it.
    • When you are satisfied with the value and colors of the sky, let it dry completely and then remove the masking fluid
    • Here you can see the levels of color under the stars. I did not completely cover the different colors as I applied new layers. 
      STEP 6
    • If you think it is not dark enough, mix a "black" with phthalo green, alizarin crimson and phthalo blue, and add to the sky. You may not need to cover the entire area. If you are adding this dark mixture to some areas, be sure to soften the edges with a damp (not wet) brush so that there are no hard lines.
    STEP 7 

    I wanted to include the moon, but did not want it to be a cleanly cut out shape on the starry sky, so I cut out a stencil of a circle and as the painting and spattering of the sky progressed, I lifted out the moon shape from dry paper with a damp brush.  
    As I added additional paint to the sky, I continued to lift small sections of the moon, leaving some residual color as well as adding color where I wanted a deeper value. I liked the way the moon floated in the sky, seeming to be part of it.

    • STEP 7

      I spent time looking at the patterns of stars to see where I thought some lights should be made darker, or new color should be added to some of those light shapes. I used accents of cerulean blue and cobalt blue teal as well as rose to complete the stars.

      To re-cap, the process is:
    • Spatter masking fluid and let it dry.
    • Add paint and dry.
    • Remove masking fluid.
    • Add a new color and let it dry.
    • Remove masking.
    • Spatter masking again and let it dry.
    • Repeat as many times as needed to get value and pattern of spattering that you want.
    • Adjust color and value of stars as needed to complete the effect.
    • If you want to include a moon, see the comments in step 6.
    Have fun! And see you again very soon.
    Wishing you a New Year filled with blessings.