Establishing a highlight pattern in water
Video: Establishing a highlight pattern in waterNow the water is a, is a really important aspect of this because it shows the reflection of light. It's a texture that leads your eye to the main characters. So, it's tricky because the water is really just a whole series of highlights. And so they're, they're like a, a pattern. And so trying to establish that pattern was a challenge, because I had to think of what it would look like in perspective. This pattern of mark making is going from foreground to middle to background.
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Mary Jane Begin is back with more from the Artist at Work series. This installment focuses on adding texture to your imagery—visual texture that breaks up repetitive strokes and static blocks of color—with pattern, color, light, and a variety of brush strokes. Mary Jane takes an early-stage illustration from her book series Willow Buds and shows how to add variation, contrast, and a tactile quality to trees and grass, water, and the sky. These lessons are useful whether you're working with traditional media like the watercolors Mary Jane uses in this course, or digital formats like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.
Mary Jane uses the following materials in this course:
- Arches 140 lb hot press paper
- Tube watercolors- Winsor & Newton Cotman brand
- Paper stumps for blending
- Pastels- a variety of stick and pencil forms (including Conte pastel pencils)
- Short, fat, fine-bristle Winsor & Newton #2 and #4 brushes (for scrubbing color off)
- Sceptre Gold II sable/synthetic blend #3, #6, and #10 brushes
- Winsor & Newton Cotman brand 25 mm/1 in. flat brush (for washes)
Establishing a highlight pattern in water
Now the water is a, is a really important aspect of this because it shows the reflection of light. It's a texture that leads your eye to the main characters. So, it's tricky because the water is really just a whole series of highlights. And so they're, they're like a, a pattern. And so trying to establish that pattern was a challenge, because I had to think of what it would look like in perspective. This pattern of mark making is going from foreground to middle to background.
So how do you achieve that with color, and how do you achieve that with pattern? So I had to think about, well, probably the whitest white, the lightest things, the brightest part, will be closest to the characters. So when I put any of the water, and little, they're basically supposed to be, like, little reflections on the water, I kept those things in the foreground. And I used, I had a kind of purply-blue color here, so I thought, well, what will work with that if I add a little color to the white that's supposed to be the sort of sparkle on top of the this purple-y water, that something sort of minty green would work out well, because that would pop off the purple ground.
It's a complementary relationship. But I still wanted it to look like, you know, like water that has a white sort of foamy edge. So I popped a lot of marks through the foreground that look like tiny little reflections. It's an illusion that it's supposed to look like water. It's not really water, it's just paint. But if I put the marks in the right way and if I look at again the references that I used, I can see how the water breaks down into graphic marks and patterns that eventually add up to a kind of texture.
I kept paying attention to my brushstroke to make sure that it was going in the right direction. And then I would also soften the mark, so that it wasn't so graphic and flat that it didn't feel as realistic as the rest of the picture. You can see, I'm sort of creating a foamy edge as the boat cuts through the water. And I had to build these marks up too because you know, the issue with water is especially with a water-based medium there's a lot of water in each of these marks to make them more fluid.
Some of them are really crisp and some of them are really fluid. And so I had to sort of go back over and add more crispness to some of the marks. I also have to pay attention to when I get way back here, the mark cannot be as crisp and as sharp as what's in the foreground. And I'll show you what I mean, and I'll get rid of it fast. Because I don't want it to be too sharp. If I make that mark as big, just add a little white, as big as what's in the foreground, and as light.
I'll put a little dot there. It starts to look like it's looking like what's in the foreground. So I have to pay attention to, and I'll show you, if it's pure white in the background, if I pop a big highlight back there. Suddenly you have something that looks like it's supposed to be in the foreground, and it denies the space. So I have to figure out. What that color will look like when it gets back there, what will the value be, how crisp will the mark be. It has to go in the same direction as the texture, so it still looks like the same water, but right now what I'm doing is adding water and I'm softening it to get rid of it.
So I'll pay attention to that as I move further back in the scene, and the texture may just fall away into a soft little very fine, very loose texture so it doesn't look like it's competing. And even what I just did, you can start to see this looks like it's closer to us and this area looks like it's further away. Simply because this is a crisp texture and that's a really soft one. I haven't even added really any, much color change there yet. And I tried to leave the tone below dark enough to react to these water textures.
And what's interesting is I'd start to do this. It almost felt like, almost like a dot pattern. Because a lot of the water that I analyzed, a lot of the pictures I looked at, especially with the sun was really strong. The, the highlights become just sharp little marks. Really crisp, they're not modulated in the water. They just sit like a sharp shape, a circle or a little line. So I'd continue to go this way through the water And I won't show all of it because it took quite a bit of time to make this painting.
But if you start to look at the difference between this mark and these, you can see one is small, little, almost like organic patterns of dots. And dashes, and the other is a, a clear stroke, and the reason why I chose those were both to show water versus grass, but also one is directing your eye into the scene, and the other is holding you, sort of around this boat. I'm trying to focus your eye with small little bright spots of color.
To get you to the focal point, which is the characters. And one thing that I tend to do, the texture of the noses of these characters are shiny, they're smooth. But I want to relate to the dot that's there, so I'm actually going to put a strong little highlight on each of their noses and their eyes. So, you really see. And it relates to this, this area of the water that's leading you in that direction and contrasting the edge of this boat.
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