This painting was inspired by a fall 2008 hike I took along the Virgin River in Zion National Park. I love the way the sun on the cliffs reflects in the cool blue water.
I am working on Arches 140 lb. Cold-press watercolor paper stapled to “Incredible Art Board”. As usual I begin with a light (4h) pencil drawing to define my edges. Using a 1-inch flat brush I start by laying in both the sky and the water at the same time using wet-into-wet technique. First I wet the paper on the sky area and apply a small amount of yellow ochre along the horizon, then do a graded wash with Ultramarine blue from the top down. While that area dries I immediately apply clear water to the water area and float the reflection colors into it.
I allow the pigment to mingle in the wet in wet wash by tipping my board vertically to allow the paint to run down. This helps give the appearance of vertical reflections of the cliffs and trees in the water. Now I let both washes dry completely.
On the distant warm cliffs I lay in the shadow shapes with Quinacridone coral and ultramarine blue allowing the pigments to mingle. Moving down to the foliage I apply simple shapes using both wet in wet and drybrush to create a sense of texture.
I use negative painting (backpainting) in several places to define lighter trunks and branches against the darker background. I also further define the shapes on the cliff with darker applications of paint, making the same adjustments in the water reflections.
My photo reference was taken with my pocket digital camera. In a high contrast lighting situation it is difficult for the camera to read the shadows and the highlights, so the shadows are way to dark with no detail. In my painting I overcome that by lightening the middle ground values.