Floating Reed Stems

Stage 1

This will be an oil painting. Having stained the board with a light wash of burnt sienna I have roughly drawn in the basic composition in thin paint diluted with turps. This dries very quickly so I can then start painting over the top the next day.

I’ve already started putting in the dark spaces of clear water between the criss-cross pattern of floating reed stems at the bottom of the picture. This helps both to establish the darkest tones of the painting and to roughly map out the patterns of dead reeds.

Stage 2

Still using diluted paint I’ve finished blocking in the water and have added a few dark areas at the bases of the tree trunks where the wood is wet, and have indicated the positions of the reflections of the trees.

With a bit of free time at the end of the day I added some colour to the teal although this is not really important at this stage.

Stage 3

I decided to roughly paint in the trees first as I needed to ‘know’ what they looked like before I could paint their reflections in the water. At the same time I tested out some blues for the water next to the tree trunks to make sure the colours and tones worked together.

Stage 4

Here I’ve started to paint the water, working the scattered floating dead reed stems into the wet paint. Working ‘wet-in-wet’ in this way I have also lightly indicated a few submerged reeds that are just visible below the surface. Although the change is subtle, there are three shades of blue already as the colour gradually darkens towards the bottom of the picture.

Stage 5

I was unhappy with the random pattern of floating reeds – it made the composition look too static. Reference photos showed that the reeds actually seemed to be arranged more in drifts so I decided to introduce a flow to the pattern to lead your eye up from the bottom of the picture towards the bird.

Here I have started roughly blocking in this new pattern, more-or-less obliterating what I had done before with more opaque paint. I’m using this process to introduce more of the intended final colours to the painting.

Stage 6

I’ve finished roughing in the floating reed stems and now I have a better idea of how the colours are working. This has only taken a day to do and I now have to go back over this area adding a bit more substance and finish to the floating vegetation.

Although from a distance it may look fine as it is, closer inspection will show that it is still rather crudely done.

Stage 7

I’m part way through ‘finishing’ the floating reed flotsam. This is a hard slog and the most tedious, boring part of this painting to do. I knew when I first had the idea that it would be hard going, and I was right! I try to keep the the thought in mind that the finished picture will be worth it. Let’s hope so!


Finished painting

At last! It was a hard slog but is now done. After finishing the reedy flotsam I added a bit more refinement to the trees; added some twigs sprouting from the tree trunks; put in a few standing reeds and painted the teal.

The painting will look better once varnished as this will bring out some contrast, deepen the dark areas and enrich the colours a bit. This painting will be in my one-man show at the Wildlife Art Gallery in November.

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