16x20 Acrylic on canvas. I went out on a limb this weekend and started a painting that was really going to challenge me, and it did. First of all, I love detail, light, and shadow. I have a tendency to sit way too close to my reference photos and way too close to my paintings. I focus on painting what my eye sees. The detail in the reflections is what drew me to this photo and I want them in there, but after putting this away, feeling frustrated, saw it from across the room and thought I may be on to something in the reflections that I have already laid down. I am not sure whether to keep the reflections loose and vague or to return to my detail oriented self and try to paint what I see.

I realize I am off on my boat reflection and will fix this after I make a decision about the water in general. I consider that I am at about the half way point right now. 

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Wow, what an interesting photo! It's visually stunning for sure. 

Those reflections are really kind of odd! They look like they have been manipulated in PhotoShop. It's kind of become an abstract background instead of an understandable image. They don't recede into an understandable distance, especially without a shoreline to orient us. Instead they stand up like a wall behind the boat. We get it in a photo, after a bit. But for me, this is one of those images that makes a great photo, but will be really tough to pull of in a painting.

You could paint just what is there and it will end up with an abstract look.

Or you could alter the image to make them more reflection like.

There is a gradation in them from smaller, closer together wiggles in the back to wider ones in the front. Also slightly more blended in the back, with more distinct shapes in the foreground. You could push those differences. Also gradate the color from lighter and more neutral in the back to richer and darker in the foreground...

As for the boat reflections. In this case the boat is very close to us, so yes, I would use more distinct shapes in the reflection. The distinction between boat and reflection is clear in the photo. In some reflections, when the water is very still you get an almost mirror image. In those cases I suggest softening up the reflection more so that you see the difference from object and reflection. But in this case you could render exactly what you see and it would look great!

I'm looking forward to seeing what you decide to do with this one Micki! Thanks for sharing!

Thanks Karen for your response. I will ponder this a bit. I did not really notice what you said about blending in the back and more distinct in the foreground. Obvious as that should have been to me. I think as I layer more paint on, I will see something take shape. I love painting boats but I could use a drawing class :-) I have a tendency not to jump back into things that frustrate me, so this may take a while. 

Using a grid system will really help with your drawing. It's all about comparing. Where the lines meet, the shapes and angles that are formed. Comparing distances against each other.

One common technique is to find an obvious length in your image - say the width of the seat in the boat. Hold up your pencil with the tip on one side, and your thumb marking the other side. Now you have a distance to compare. So if you hold that up to say the width of the boat you can determine how many "seat lengths" the boat is wide, or tall, or deep, etc. 3/4? 1 1/2?  This keeps your drawing in proportion...

The other technique is angles. For example - imagine a horizontal line from the front tip of the boat to the right side. This forms an angle with the hull of the boat where it meets the waterline. Compare the same spot on your painting and you will see that your angle there is steeper.

This is a huge help. You should have seen it before I fixed it. :-) I have never used a grid, but have seen the technique. I really appreciate your help.

Micki, I have recently started using the grid system and it helps a lot if you are looking for a faithful reproduction of elements in the reference photo.  I actually like your rendering better than the reference piece.  It just "shimmers".  It's quite appealing to me.

.Thanks Mike I overpaint a lot of elements as I close in on finishing a painting. This one needs so much work. I will keep at it and post when I feel it is "finished" 

Hi Micki!

As Karen commented, this is quite stunning as a photo!  For me, there are several things worthy of note in the original.  The use of telephoto lenses introduce  or magnify optical artifacts that we don't usually notice otherwise.  The boat itself is visually compressed - it seems shorter bow to stern than it really is.  The linear reflections are also compressed; what are waves in the foreground quickly become just a granular texture with increasing distance.  The source of the reflections is not defined, so there is an element of confusion.  What "makes" the image is the contrast between the cool colours of the boat and the predominantly warm colours of the reflections.

Looking down at the boat eliminates all other reference points, so the viewer is left with questions about the scene and the background.  The lighting appears to come from just left of center, and a bit diffuse based upon shadows in and on the boat.  That type of lighting usually gives a lot of glare on water, which would dramatically reduce reflections.  The lines on the boat are also very crisp for diffuse lighting.  The refection of the boat is also free of the reflected colours from the background.  All of this supports Karen's impression of a manipulated photo - including increased colour saturation and increased contrast.

None of this is negative per se, but being aware of technical manipulations can help us understand and relate better to the image.  We accept artifacts in photos that we may well reject in a painting, so we need to be careful what we include and what we exclude.  While initially attracted to the boat, I find myself almost fixated upon the reflections, trying to rationalize their shapes and colours.

Karen has given you some nice input.  I would just add one caveat - be very careful to anchor the boat to the foreground or it will appear to be floating in mid air.

this is a brave undertaking :)  the photo is almost startling! I can see why you chose it. I love the work you have done already. I cant wait to see what you do with it from here. this community is so amazing to me. what good friends e have to help us improve our paintings. thanks for sharing.

Good analysis of the reference photo Wenda. It totally drew me in. I just wondered, "what in the heck would I get if I tried to paint it?" I guess we will all find out! I love this group. I recently moved, work from home,  and have zero friend connections.  My online communities have become pretty important to me. 

So, two months later and over 40 hours into this painting it turned out to be something I had not planned. My goal was to learn to paint reflections in water. The boat was very frustrating, so it was repainted, then repainted again. In doing so it bacame quite a bit smaller than what I had originally laid out, so I had to add a background so it made sense. I pieced together reference photos of sea walls, Portofino, Italy and my original reference photo of the boat. I never hope to spend this amount of time on a painting unless I am passionate about the subject matter. I guess I need to visit Portofino. I appreciate any feedback. I see something that bothers me, but I am wondering if anyone else sees it. 

wow Micki! what a gorgeous painting!  i love it! the background is so well done, the water is great, really nice job on the boat. the flower vines hanging on the wall are beautiful. you should be very pleased with this painting.  :)  i think the red bouy is a little distracting to me.  if i scroll the picture down so it doesnt show up, it feels much better to me. i am not the expert resident here though lol as you well know. all your hard work really shows here.  thanks for sharing!


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