Monday Motivator: The Colour of Water

Monday Motivator

“Water … is both transparent and reflective. It is, therefore very susceptible to light, the bearer of color.

… since it mirrors the sky which it faces directly, it absorbs and reflects the blue of the atmosphere. In instances where it is strongly green, there is always a light-colored sand at the shore and under the water which, mixed with blue, no doubt produce green.

… Though water reflects perfectly when it is smooth, a surface broken with ripples and waves changes the reflected parts considerably. Some parts will mirror the sky overhead, others, the places near the horizon, others the sunlight, while still other parts will be in shadow. The effect is not a gradation, but a mosaic of several different tones.”

Nathan Cabot Hale, “Abstraction in Art & Nature”, page 267

The difference in a reflection in still water and ripples water can easily be seen in this photo I took at Portsoy harbour. Where the water is rippled, the reflected mast is zigzagged. Where it’s still, in the calm of the inner harbour, the mast is straight. The former is arguably easier to paint because we can’t compare a squiggly reflection with the object that’s being reflected.

Also notice how the turquoise blue of the boat is echoed by the colour in the water. If you squint (half close your eyes) it becomes more evident, particularly at the end of the harbour wall on the left. Keep squinting and have a look at how much blue you see reflected in the sea towards the bottom right.

3 Replies to “Monday Motivator: The Colour of Water”

  1. I know the theory, and I can see the reflections/colours. The harder part is knowing how, technically, to lay that down in a painting. I’m slowly learning. Squinting is definitely a very helpful tool. I can see distinct shapes of colour in this image.

    1. I think the key is in seeing shapes of colour, like jigsaw pieces, and (somehow) forgetting what the object is. Enlarging small parts of a photo helps me see these, and on location using my fingers to create a viewfinder (thumb and forefinger together as a variable aperture) to focus on a small part of a scene. Practice and deliberate doing has made it easier, but still sometimes my brain goes into autopilot and obsesses about “the subject”.

      1. Thanks, Marion. That’s really helpful. I’m familiar with those approaches, but I need to practice them more with (what seem like) difficult subjects like water and glass.

Add a comment here: