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Posts tagged ‘waterfall’

Why should waterfalls be so hard?

I’ve been fascinated by water for years: water flowing around rocks in a stream, waves and ocean currents, foamy water alongside a boat … and ever since my trip to Victoria Falls in Africa in 2019 … waterfalls. But none of my waterfall paintings are satisfying to me. The effects I want continue to elude me. Why should waterfalls be so hard?

I started with a fairly representational painting of Victoria Falls in 2020:

Victoria Falls 2020 Acrylic on raw canvas 20×14

Next came a bigger painting of Victoria Falls, more abstract, just focusing on the movement of the water itself. Fortunately or unfortunately, I never took a picture of it and it has undergone several iterations since then. It’s still not finished.

Then I decided to test some different techniques in smaller paintings, just to see what might work. In one, I put the rocks down first using a palette knife and molding paste, then added the “water.”

Falling 2022 18×14

That didn’t quite do it. It wasn’t clear if it were snow or water.

So I tried again, and this time it looks more like Victoria Falls, more powerful, but still not abstracted enough, still not what I wanted.

Thunder 2022 18×14

So I decided to try to really paint a more abstracted waterfall, more like the beautiful ones I saw in Iceland. Having used most of my creativity for the painting itself, I simply called it Falling Water.

Falling Water 2022 20×20

This is much better, but still no cigar.

And, of course, the 3rd (but not final) version of my 2020 waterfall painting is still sitting on the rack at the Art Students League waiting for me to finish it. One of these days (months? years?) I’ll know how to do that.

In the meantime, I don’t have the answer to my original question: Why should waterfalls be so hard? (shrug) They just are.

It’s Still about Water

Over the years I’ve painted rivers, clouds reflected in the water, water churning next to a ship, rapids … well, it’s still about water for me. Water in all its forms continues to fascinate.

For instance, it’s amazing to me how similar frozen water (glaciers) and falling water (waterfalls) are. Several times last year I tried to paint one and ended up with the other. None of them turned out to be very good and I was very frustrated.

But now, I think I’ve figured out how to paint a waterfall using my acrylic on raw canvas (atmospheric) technique. Dry Season was a test case and it worked well.

Dry Season 14×11 2020

First, I painted the sky (very pale violet), the distant mountains (violet), and the rocks below (varying shades of ultraviolet blue and sepia) using my wet-in-wet acrylic on raw canvas technique. Before it dried I used a paper towel to wipe out the areas where I wanted the water to be. After it dried, I added the trees and foliage at the top of the cliffs. Finally, I started rubbing in the white water with a damp rag, leaving it translucent (to see the rocks underneath) in some places and adding more white to make it opaque in others. Lastly, with a pallette knife or a sponge I added specs of white for accent.

Even though all that water was gushing over the cliffs and falling to the rocks below, it was still the middle of the dry season when I saw Victoria Falls, and it was absolutely overwhelming. During the rainy season I’m told there is no dry land. The fog and mist from the falls keeps everything and everyone wet. I can’t begin to imagine it. Even in the dry season, Victoria Falls lives up to its name: The Smoke That Thunders.

I’m a little schizophrenic

It’s true.  I do very different work when I’m at home in my studio and when I’m down in class at the Art Students League.  I’m a little schizophrenic.

Nine months ago I got two 2.5 x 3.5 canvases at a Gala event for the Art Students League.  2.5 x 3.5?!? What can you do with anything that small?  Well … experiment, what else?  So instead of doing the kind of work I do at the League, I decided to try something new.  I made monoprints of my acrylic palette with both canvasses … and really hated both of them (well, one more than the other, but it doesn’t matter). Neither was any good.

So I dug out some fluid acrylics and dripped them on the canvas and started pushing them around with a palette knife.

Two tiny canvases

Very short story later, I liked them.  The one on the right looked like a waterfall; the one on the left, well, I didn’t know what it looked like. But it still appealed to me. So I decided to do more of this kind of work and upgraded to a slightly larger canvas: 5×7.

So, this is my idea of where the ocean meets the beach:

Beach    7×5

My next post will be about the very different kind of work I am doing at the Art Students League.




Skógafoss, final version, really

And here I thought I was done painting that impossibly high Icelandic waterfall, Skógafoss.  After all, I had done about 7 versions, and even posted about them in my previous blog, almost bragging about how much I liked the final (yes, final) version, Skógafoss V (hereinafter known as Skógafoss V v2).

Skógafoss V v2

Skógafoss V v2

Well, I was showing the actual painting to an artist friend when it suddenly hit both of us: our eye kept being drawn to the bottom center of the waterfall.  It wasn’t supercritical, but once I’d noticed it, I couldn’t un-notice it.

So I softened the two vertical strips of blue and added a little more white, and voilà, Skógafoss V (the really final version).

Skógafoss V

Skógafoss V

Hopefully, I can leave it alone now.

Skógafoss: an awesome waterfall

Almost two years ago on a trip to Iceland, I was greatly impressed with its many beautiful waterfalls. One of the most dramatic was the 62 meter high Skógafoss. We saw it first from the road a mile or so away, and then later up close and personal, getting wet from the mist at the base of the falls. Either way, it was awesome.

I’ve wanted to paint Skógafoss ever since, but didn’t know how. I poured over the pictures I and other people have taken, looked at the patterns in the flow of the water, and just couldn’t figure out how to do it justice.

Well, sometimes you just have to jump in.  So I started with a very plebeian, representational version (I didn’t plan on it being plebeian, it just ended up that way). Sometimes, on the path to the abstract painting I really want to do, I have to start with a representational one, just to get it out of my system.



And that initial representational painting often isn’t very impressive (as in this case), possibly because it’s not what I really wanted. But it did help me define the relative dimensions of the falls and start thinking about how to show the sheer power of the water…

So then I did an initial abstract watercolor sketch of the falls.  Not bad. With Skógafoss I, I really did manage to convey the massive height and force of the falls.

Skógafoss I

Skógafoss I

On the basis of that success, I decided to do a bigger version. Unfortunately, while I liked the colors, Skógafoss II had a number of problems, not the least of which was that the falls no longer looked so tall and massive.

Skógafoss II

Skógafoss II

So, a week or so later, along came Skógafoss III.

Skógafoss III

Skógafoss III

Well, the size of the falls relative to the size of the people is better, but this seems to be more about the rocks than the falls. I used a cheap 3″ bristle brush to do the white for the water which is a big improvement, but that one big dark blue rock on the right just jumps up and bites me.  And I can’t seem to wash it out any more.  Ah well, have to keep going…

So almost cutting to the chase, here is the “at one point I thought this was final” version:

Skógafoss V v1

Skógafoss V v1

I liked it a lot and even got so far as to scan it into the computer (which is the only reason you can see it now).  But when I looked at the image on my computer screen, it really looked washed out and dull.  Aargh!!!

I couldn’t bear starting all over on yet another version, so I jazzed up some of the colors in the sky and the rocks, added more white to the water and then added dabs of color on top of the white.

So here is the final, final version.


Skógafoss V

Skógafoss V

I like this one a lot.  Finally.

Which one do you like the most?