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Painting Water: A Roman Lake

Updated on February 19, 2015

Water Reflections Inspire Painting

Water is a favorite subject for artist, Sharon Weaver. "I love to paint water so I take my camera everywhere and am always on the lookout for an interesting scene with water. Even on vacation, I take photos that may be used as a reference for a painting. You can imagine how excited I was to visit Italy for two weeks in the fall. My husband and I where traveling with another couple so I didn't take my paints with me, but I was on the lookout for photo references that I could use when I returned home.

One of my most memorable days in Rome was spent at the Galleria Borghese. Sculptures by Bernini, paintings by Titian, Raphael and Caravagio where highlights of the museum but the walk back to our hotel through the surrounding gardens was a once in a lifetime adventure.

Unexpected surprises were around every corner with lovely vistas, fountains and buildings. The Piazza di Siena and the Tempietto di Diana are only two of the many landmarks we stumbled upon but, for me, the biggest moment of the day was when we came through some trees to see the Temple of Aesculapius on the lake. The afternoon was cloudy but just at that moment of first discovery, the sun came out and I took several photos. The reflections in the lake were spectacular and the varied colors of the trees where sublime. I saw a painting.

I only had time for a few photos because soon after this photo was taken, the clouds covered the sky and it started to drizzle, erasing the mirror reflection in the water. The magic moment had passed."

Borghese Gardens, Rome Italy

All photos and artwork are by Sharon Weaver

Visit Rome - Is a Roman Holiday in Your Future?

I spent two weeks in Italy; one in Rome at a B&B near the Spanish Steps and one in Tuscany seeing surrounding hill towns. I soon realized that I could have easily spent a month walking the beautiful streets of Rome. The city spoke to me and I loved it. If you have been there you probably understand my infatuation. If you have never seen Rome, do yourself a favor and make your next trip Rome, Italy.

Fodor's Essential Italy: Rome, Florence, Venice & the Top Spots in Between (Full-color Travel Guide)
Fodor's Essential Italy: Rome, Florence, Venice & the Top Spots in Between (Full-color Travel Guide)

This is the book that my husband bought for our trip to Italy. It was a wealth of information and directed us to many out of the way treasures. A MUST HAVE.

 
Streetwise Rome Map - Laminated City Center Street Map of Rome, Italy - Folding pocket size travel map with metro map, subway
Streetwise Rome Map - Laminated City Center Street Map of Rome, Italy - Folding pocket size travel map with metro map, subway

I am a map person and used my map extensively in Rome. I marked our daily excursions in marker so years from now I can retrace my steps. I prefer to see the entire city not just a little part like you can see on your smart phone.

 
Rome: The Complete Series
Rome: The Complete Series

The HBO series is a must see. The deceit, the intrigue, the power struggles, the sex; all make this series very entertaining.

 
Roman Holiday
Roman Holiday

If you can not go to Rome, why not bring Rome to you with a Hollywood romantic comedy. This is a wonderful film.

 

Saving a Moment

Capturing that first moment of discovery is the essence of my work so I didn't waste any time after my return home from Rome. I painted several paintings from that trip but my favorite is of the lake in the Borghese Gardens. Here is how I did it.

First, I found the photograph and cropped it to my liking. I also enhanced the colors to reflect my first impression. I wanted it to convey the magic of the place.

Next, I worked on a sketch. For me it is always helpful to familiarize myself with the scene by working out a sketch. I will eliminate or enhance different aspects of a scene to improve the composition. Nature doesn't usually provide the perfect scene so here is when I make different design decisions to improve the scene and bend it to my liking.

Sketch by Sharon Weaver

Rome the Eternal City

Have you ever been to Rome?

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Under-painting in Complementary Colors

It may look strange but painting the under-painting in the complementary colors, the opposite color on the color wheel, will really make those colors pop. You may not know what a complementary color is but you have seen them used in many different ways. For more in depth information on painting with complementary colors see my article Transform Your Art With Color.

Blue and orange, red and green (Christmas colors); purple and yellow (Easter colors) are examples of complementary colors. When they are used together these colors effect each other by creating a visual vibration. They are the greatest chromatic contrast to each other. Using the complementary color underneath another color will give vibrancy to the final color because of the contrast.

Paint the Darks - Starting to Add Color

I always begin my paintings by establishing the darks. I start out thin, using a mix of turpentine and oil paint. Dark colors need this transparency to give them depth. My darks never contain black but instead have rich colors of blue, green, purple and red. Shadows are much more interesting with color. Painting the darks first will also establish the design. Now I can really see the structure of the painting.

Most artists make the mistake of painting the surface of the water before they have painted the depth. I will first paint the water using a vertical brush stroke. By painting the water up and down I give the water depth..

Adding More Color

Squint at the painting. Do you see the shape, like a Rorschach image, the lines of the trees are mirrored in the water. Now I start to add the actual colors to the painting. My paint is thicker but I still allow some of the under-painting to show through. See the raspberry color showing through the green trees on the left side of the painting? That is the complementary under-painting showing through.

In the water, it is time to start painting the surface of the water. I do that with horizontal brushstrokes and shapes.

Starting the Details

Now that I have established the masses, I will start to develop details introducing more variety to the colors. I add lots of different greens in the vegetation, different shades of blue in the water and interest in the light accents. As with black, I never use straight white. My whites are always a very light tint of color. There really is no black or white in nature, these are man made colors. Also white can have a chalky look. Besides isn't a light mint green or light peach much prettier than stark white?

Now, I am concerned with variety of color, brushstroke and texture in the water. The horizontal strokes are used to define the ripples in the water as the texture mimics the actual ripples adding interest.

More Detail

At this stage there is a constant back and forth between positive and negative space. I strive for variety and unity. These may seem to be contradictory goals but if you think about it you will understand why you need both. If there is too much unity the painting is boring, on the other hand, if there is too much variety the painting doesn't hold together. It is a balancing act that takes experimentation and adjustments.

The shapes in the water need to be broken up to create interest but not so much that you loose the shape of the image. I want some areas to have texture and add heavy paint while other areas are left thin and translucent.

Refining the Water

Shaping the final details for drama is the final step. Connecting some shapes while extending other, refining the lightest and darkest colors are all part of how I finalize my painting. These small changes direct the eye and lead you around the painting. I have read that creating a painting is like composing music and that analogy rings true. Here is where I add the crescendo, the climax.

Even at this stage I can and do make major changes in the composition. I should have caught this earlier but I see a problem. That inverted blue V at the center bottom of the painting is very distracting so I decided to eliminate it (see final painting below). I extended the clouds and am much happier with the result.

Final - Reflections of the Past by Sharon Weaver

My painting, Reflections of the Past, is complete, I have designed the shapes, colors and values to show you how I felt on that fall afternoon stepping through the trees to first see this lake. I even made a few major changes in the composition. The visual has replaced any words I could write. The moment captured for everyone to enjoy.

The original painting is sold but you can buy a print of Reflections of the Past in a variety of sizes.

Photos and artwork by Sharon Weaver

For the Artist in You - Arts and craft sets that will bring out your creativity.

Darice 80-Piece Deluxe Art Set
Darice 80-Piece Deluxe Art Set

How do they give you so much for under $25? Whether you create crafts or fine art, you are sure to produce masterpieces with this set.

 
Art Advantage Wood Art Box Easel Paint Set
Art Advantage Wood Art Box Easel Paint Set

Paint on the go with a compact painting set.

 

Art Lover or Artist - Do you love water too?

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    • Sharon Weaver profile image
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      Sharon Weaver 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      @yarfodg: I have always found water to be hypnotic. It provides a great meditation.

    • Sharon Weaver profile image
      Author

      Sharon Weaver 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      @DebW07: Thank you Deb. I am grateful to be an artist and be able to share the beauty I see around me.

    • Sharon Weaver profile image
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      Sharon Weaver 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      @Dabdab: I try to capture the magic of the moment. Tanks.

    • Sharon Weaver profile image
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      Sharon Weaver 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      @lgOlson: Glads you enjoyed it and thanks for stopping by.

    • yarfodg profile image

      yarfodg 4 years ago

      Water reflections are relaxing and your painting is absolutely amazing!!!

    • profile image

      DebW07 4 years ago

      I love gazing at a body of water and you've captured the calming beauty in your painting. As I look at every phase of your work I think to myself "how beautiful" and then it gets better. Your painting is beautiful at every stage. You are so talented, what a wonderful gift you have!

    • Dabdab profile image

      Dabdab 4 years ago

      water is so beautiful in a painting if it's done right, and your water painting is amazing.

    • lgOlson profile image

      L. Olson 4 years ago from Northern Arizona

      Really nice article and your art is very very good. Thanks!

    • Sharon Weaver profile image
      Author

      Sharon Weaver 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      @artbyrodriguez: Thank you. I sold this painting soon after completion so it only made it into one show. This is a great way for me to share it with more people.

    • artbyrodriguez profile image

      Beverly Rodriguez 4 years ago from Albany New York

      What a beautiful painting. Your instructions are very clear and helpful. Thanks for sharing this lovely place and your artwork.

    • Sharon Weaver profile image
      Author

      Sharon Weaver 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      @mbgphoto: Thank you and I appreciate your reading my article.

    • Sharon Weaver profile image
      Author

      Sharon Weaver 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      @lionmom100: You are lucky to have added the Galleria Borghese to your itinerary. Many people go to Rome and miss it. I agree that Apollo and Daphne is incredible and my favorite too. There is so much to see there. Thank you for adding your experience here.

    • audrey07 profile image

      audrey07 4 years ago

      Very nice! I wish I can paint like that...

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 4 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      This is a great lens. I love the way you explain your beautiful paintings and your helpful comments on your Amazon selections really add to the lens. Well done!

    • profile image

      lionmom100 4 years ago

      A beautiful painting. We were in Rome last year and managed to get an appointment to go to the Galleria Borghese, which was not a part of our tour. It was incredible, although a little intimidating to try to finish going through in only two hours. There was much lovely art there, but the most awe inspiring sculpture was Apollo and Daphne by Bernini. I don't think I have ever seen anything so exquisite and intricate. I would love to go back to Italy.

    • Sharon Weaver profile image
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      Sharon Weaver 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      @audrey07: Practice, practice, practice. In fact it is all practice. I have the passion for it so I have put in the time. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Sharon Weaver profile image
      Author

      Sharon Weaver 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      @shellys-space: Thank you. I highly recommend a visit to Rome. You should go.

    • shellys-space profile image

      Shelly Sellers 4 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      Your Reflections of the Past painting is lovely Sharon. I would love to visit Rome someday :)

    • Sharon Weaver profile image
      Author

      Sharon Weaver 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      @LiteraryMind: Thank you for reading my article. I am happy you enjoyed it.

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      So very interesting to see the way you lose layering to create your beautiful artwork.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      VERY Beautiful!

    • Sharon Weaver profile image
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      Sharon Weaver 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      @ItayaLightbourne: I have been teaching classes and wanted to save my process on this painting to share with my students. I will check out your work.

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 4 years ago from Topeka, KS

      What a lovely and very informative article! Being an artist, I really appreciate your ability to articulate the details of exactly how you create your paintings. It's always fun to read of another artist's creative process. Thank you for sharing! :)

    • Sharon Weaver profile image
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      Sharon Weaver 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      @kerbev: Thank you.

    • kerbev profile image

      kab 4 years ago from Upstate, NY

      Beautiful!

    • Sharon Weaver profile image
      Author

      Sharon Weaver 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      @SusanDeppner: Thank you. I strive to bring the sense of place to my work.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 4 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I'm definitely not an artist, but I most definitely appreciate art like this and really do love paintings and pictures of water. Yours is absolutely beautiful!