How To Paint Reflections | Ron Mulvey✏️ | Skillshare
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5 Lessons (39m)
    • 1. Intro How to Paint Perfect Reflections

    • 2. Materials for Reflections

    • 3. Drawing Reflections

    • 4. Painting Reflections Step 1

    • 5. Painting Reflections Step 2

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About This Class


Reflections are a definite 'must' for all the visual art forms. They bring shine and depth to your artwork and create a real 'pull' to the viewer.

I have made this demo easy to follow so that you get the 'Trick' right away.

Painting Reflections in watercolor or any medium involves some guidelines that will make parts of your paper appear shiny and wet even though they are just dry paper. This is the "Trick". 

Once you learn it for water you will start to look for "Reflections" everywhere. Your painting life will change forever!

Meet Your Teacher

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Ron Mulvey✏️

Artist / Art Teacher


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1. Intro How to Paint Perfect Reflections : Hi, I'm Ron Mulvey and I'm a professional landscape painter. Welcome to Reflections. How to make water look wet. Reflections are essential to the landscape painter because they create a light effect. When you have a light effect, your painting comes alive. This class is for beginners, intermediate, and advanced. The technique is really important because this is how you make something look shiny, wet, and give it depth and luminosity. This is going to be a short class that you can handle quickly. Get you paper, get your pen, pencil, and your paints. You'll only going to need three paints, two brushes, one piece of paper. I think you'll really enjoy what you're about to learn about reflections. 2. Materials for Reflections: I'm going to squeeze out some thalo blue right in the middle. Put the same amount as you would brush your teeth with, maybe a little less. Now I have my yellow, my as azo yellow and I have my alizarin crimson. Three plates. I'm choosing this for smaller brush and so little sable brush, but you can use in synthetic brush. You can also use a small Asian brush, half inch or inch flat brush, and a really big brush. So any combination of small, medium, and large, this would work also. Small, medium, large. If you feel you like really small, it depends on what you think small and medium and large are. So you might go there. But you do need, I think up to three brushes it's great. So I'm going to choose that one, and I'm going to choose this one and this one. 3. Drawing Reflections : You may choose to use a piece of graphite pencil. You can use a regular pencil and I'm going to use a sharpie and the reason I'm going to use a sharpie is because you can see it on the film. First thing is the little bush and I'm just going to use little wiggles strokes like that. Put another little one maybe here and couple little marks for the wooden part that makes it stick in the ground. Now we're going to take a nice round curve here. This is going to be the bank and as we come along, I might add little zigzag there just to break up the line, and then under there, another small line. Indicate where the reflection is going to begin. Now we add sometimes, with a pencil or pen, we add little reflection marks such as this. Notice I've left the middle open because this will be a different color eventually. Add a little bit of bushes texture along the bottom there, and now we're going to come up with some more wiggles and we're making the cottonwood trees that are behind. Notice I have two here. One small one, a big one, and medium one. We might say a baby bear, papa bear, mama bear. We add a couple little trunks in there. Now I'm just going to put in a little line up here very simply and maybe another one here beside it. Those are going to be our evergreen trees. Now, I just use what's called a zig wiggle, a zigzag line here. That will give me two trees here. A couple more little dots here and the next thing is we're going to put in the line for the railway tracks across the lake, and go going to put a slight curve and break it up. I never put up very long line without a slight break in it to add some interest. There was another rounded shape. A little more of a bank. I'm got to make sure that I leave a little room right here to put in a small bush. Continue that across. Behind here, was another bush, little bigger. Try to contrast sizes and that might also add another line on top of here. Just to give me the back of the railway lines. There is a railway here. Couple little breaks here because this is made of grass and rocks. Coming up here, a little bit of wiggle here. These are our trees. I'm just using zigzag forms. You can change this. You can add whatever you want. But I've added simple zigzag forms and some more down here and some round forms and I'm creating just tree forms with my pencil or my pen. If you want to add some specific tops to some trees like that, you can stylize it anyway, you want, take your time. Make it your little drawing. I have put three trees in their equally distant which I don't care for. I'm going to put two beside this one. Now I have one, two, three, four and like five. Well, there's a three group and one group there. I can see one here. See how I'm thinking a little bit about design here. I'm having some fun drawing. You don't have fun drawing. You won't have much fun painting. There's two things, drawing, painting. Remember, this is going to be a reflection study. Next is the mountain behind, and it comes in here. Now, as mountains get farther away, they still have a little bit of an edge here and there. Make sure that you hop through here, behind here and you can with your pencil, add a little bit of texture if you're using a pen, add some texture. Nothing wrong with that. Now I have a small island here, a little bigger here, and a little bigger here. When you think about it, we have working with three baby bear, papa bear, mama bear. Well, we only have two here. That's okay. We'll put a little one down here. See, I like to use that three idea. There, one, two, three. One, two, three, four, five. Five is good. Three is good. There's one too, and here's a big one behind there. I could add a little telephone or what do they call those things, telegraph poles. I could add some interest to it right on the edge here, a telegraph pole or telephone pole. One two good enough. Next are the clouds. The clouds are coming on an angle that I'm using a pencil. I'm going to just put a couple of wiggles down like that. Oh, am I even put little bit of a bottom in there. Just give me that shooting. There's one, two and maybe a little one up here. Like that. There we go. A couple little reflected lines down here. It just give some thrust downwards. I like that. Put my name on it. 4. Painting Reflections Step 1: We are going to do the reflection now. You'll notice I have a big jug of water beside me, I make sure that my brush is clean. Always have a piece of scrap paper to see if it's clean. Here's what you're going to do, you're going to wet the paper. Wetting the paper is good because the water penetrates into the paper. We want the water to soak in, so notice I'm putting a copious amount of water on, I advise you to do the same thing in your studio, and then give yourself a couple minutes. Okay, it's been about two or three minutes. Now this you could leave for 15 minutes. The more you leave it, the more it soaks in, and the paper becomes saturated, so I'm just giving it, let's say you're just home from work, and you don't have too much time. You only have maybe 10 or 15 minutes, so those are about a three minutes soak, I take a clean towel, and I gently just lay the towel on, and that picks up all the excess water that's all over it. You don't want puddles of water. Notice the paper is buckled a little, and that's okay. I put my big brush down, and I'm going to take my medium brush, small piece of paper, see, you use big pieces of paper, and you won't get your work done, it takes too long. Now I'm going to take one stroke with the Hansa, or you can use Azo yellow, or Indian yellow. It's fairly strong, it's not too thin, see, like pea soup. The water's in here, so I don't need as much water on my brush. I looked at my picture. I'm going to put in some sweeps here, a little bit of water on it, sweep along there, sweep along here, there, there there, and notice because the paper's wet, that I can get all that yellow onto the bushes, and there we go. Depending on how wet your paper is, mine is not soaking wet, I take some water on my brush, and soften all the edges. Notice I've left the white here. Soften the edges. Take a little bit of the Thalo blue here, and let's see what happens. There's the clouds. I'm going to just put a little thalo blue in here, and let me see how much it drips. Okay, it's dripping a little bit, not too much, this is not extreme, but look with a little extra wire on my brush, I can bring it right down in here. I'm going to leave my clouds, but I can bring that blue right into my trees. Now notice because this is a little wet, that my paint is spreading. Take a little more of the thalo, it's a little bit too strong, so I add a little water to it, and I'm going to put it up in this corner. So you see our paper's a little wet, but it's not soaking wet, we can control it slightly. I'm going to take a little bit of this blue now, if it's blue up here, I put some here. Notice I've only used two colors, and I'm actually painting upside down, it's okay, because water runs down. I have already captured a feeling of reflections. I think I'll put this little bit of blue, this little spot here, I'm just going to show a little bit in there. What I put up there, I put down here. See, just the right amount of wet, that's this one, and a shadow right there like that. You can see from the photograph, that that's what was happening. Now, I'm going to take this, and I'm going to pull that down a little bit like that, there we go. Nice. I've got a feeling that's a little dark, so, here's where you can spot out with a dry towel. Perfect. Excellent. Now I'm going to take some blue, and watch what I do. I'm going to take this blue, and we're going to give it a good swipe in there, right along the bottom where the shade was, and a little bit on water, and just spread it over there, leaving little bits of warmth here and there. Now, here's where it could get tricky. See all this blue in here, this is yellow, so, that's going to reflect there. I'm going to put in some blue at the bottom. Tilt it. Now it's running,see. Now look, this is reflecting here and this is reflecting at the bottom, so, I have to help it a little bit with a few of these. Now, this is a boat here, so it's not going to go much farther than there, and then now we have this part here, and it's going to reflect straight down here, but this yellow has to be left. You see how I'm thinking? There. I just feel this just really needs a little bit of alizarin crimson. Notice I've added water to it. See that, and now I'm going to clean my brush off, dry it, put the towel, and leave white at the top, very important. You know that alizarin crimson is very nice. I'm just going to put a little pinch of that. You wouldn't see the clouds here because if you measure it out, there's this much here, and if you have a longer picture, you could put the clouds here. Keep that number three in your your brain, and you'll always have a fairly decent picture. Blue, blue, but no blue here, so, I'm going to add a stronger darker blue in this corner. Just there, that's it. Let that dry. 5. Painting Reflections Step 2: We are now going to make a darker color. This is fairly thick. Just to show you, there's two kinds of paint, transparent and opaque. Opaque is when the paint is quite thick and not so much water. But I want to a few opaque sections. I'm going to add a dark green now. Going to take a yellow and make a fairly strong green. Notice, clean your brush every time, even if you're changing to the same color. There we go. Now this is a darker green than we have here. Now, this is wet still, and I'm going to just drop in a little bit of this to see what happens. See how I'm changing the value of the trees behind here. I make sure that the sky is fairly dry that's why I waited, because otherwise I would bleed into the sky. This dark here, if it's about hear is going to be starting about here so, I put a little wining like that. There's one here, I put a little wining like that. This one, just is going to peak over here. Back here. This could be a little bigger. There. Here's a little reflection here. Reflection here. I'm going to make this a little darker, and put a little bit in here. Look the paper's still a little damp, that's what you want. Don't be in a hurry to throw dark paint on your water color. Best to just put little bits in at a time. Now here's a little trick about reflections. The darks go lighter in a reflection. I've added a little water to my dark. See that? Now, this one, it's just a little lighter, see? If you observe reflections, the dark, here's your dark, will be lighter in the reflection. But the mid tones like the blue, they'll be exactly the same. The light sections are a little darker also. I'm going to give a little sweep up in the clouds here, these two lines. Let me take a little bit of my color here make sure I check it. That's perfect. It's perfect violet. Take my brush and soften the edge. That is going to be perfect in here, so I have to found my color again. That's it. I think it read like this, like that. See for the cloud. I could've even tilted it the opposite way. Put another one in there. Now here's where we're putting in a few little water undulations just with our brush. A little yellow, and a little bit of red to get my bright orange. Got to have sum orange in my picture somewhere. If you looked at the photograph, there's a little mud here. Maybe up here a little bit of orange. There. We have a nice warm section here and the values here are fairly similar. What I'm going to do is I'm going to darken with a little bit of this like that. That highlights the telephone pole too. You'll notice the paper's still a little damp, so what I'll do is just tap it out with my brush there. Now this is a little darker here, so I'm going to add a couple little down strokes there. See, especially because of that. A nice soft brush does the job. Now, let's say you just got a little hard edged, you notice I'm taking my brush, got a little water on it and I just soften the edges a little bit. You'll always get a brighter green when you put it over the yellow rather than mixing the two together. You get a totally different color when you mix them together. Now I can just green this up a little bit. See, stroke it gently. Take a little bit from here, there's my shadow still there. Take a little bit here. Well, we bought little white they're, just gently putting the blew over the yellow. Looking pretty nice. You can see I'm going to darken this a little more again for the third time, like dark in that section, and because it's light here, I'm doing a design principle, which is dark against light contrast, and I think I'll put one more little swipe in here to make this adjusting, adjusting on the wet paper, there you see. Mirror image is a good thing when we're painting. These are to much the same. So what can I do there is I can lighten this one by lifting a little bit off, see. Lifting, put a little bit of brown on it, see that it's still there. That's a nice contrast right there. A little brown on this section here. Well, not really brown, it's just a little red. Just to darken in there. Take a little bit of the blue and the red tap, tap, and have just a nice little shadow in there, maybe right in there too. Here we dark green, and I'm going to add a little bit onto my trees. Is taking a little bit of thalo, taking a little bit of alizarin, make sure your brush is clean, mixing a fairly dark, and I want you to just put a little bit dark right in hear. Remember your painting, although the class might be 20 minutes long, don't think that you just have 20 minutes to complete this project, I'm having a good time and every time I go away from it and take a look at it, I see something I need to do. So I'm now going to put that shadow in here. There it is. I put it on an angle. All I'm doing is putting thalo or blue over it. I'm going to do one here. So I have two shadows, one there and one there, they're both round, and then I just come over here and do it. You can really see the angle of incident, it's called incidence on a shadow. It's like the same angle. Sometimes it's a little steeper, but basically you just do a mirror image. Some people have all kinds of mathematical formulas on shadows, and that's fine. But we're just creating a little effect here. Here we go. Now rule in the water, soften a bit and lose it as they say. You lose it by letting it drift off at the end. Shadows are always very faint at the end, unless it's 12 o'clock noon. So the edges of a shadow soften the edges. Hard-edged shadows, you do get them, but the hard edge is only at the beginning, and you remember the texture, this is rock and grass, so you're not going two have any hard edges, and I'd known the light's coming from here and I darken that earlier on, but I'm going to put in what's called a graded wash up here. So you get a puddle going, the chip puddle going, go around the tree. There we go. Puddle, puddle, and little water to your brush not paint, that will lighten the paint, and then switch off all the paint, tap down sum of the water. There we go. I've darkened one sighed of my sky. Generally, the sky that's away from the light is darker. As they say, you can keep adjusting. I've added a little bit of yellow to my thalo this time, like that little white spot it, left it, and then I'm tapping it out here. Tapping into it out. Now, it's not exactly like the picture, but I don't want it exactly like the picture. I wanted exactly the weigh I want it. Like this but I like it a little bit more pronounced here. Just a little darker. Just a little bit of thalo and a drop of alizarin. Knowing where to put them is very important. Just not everywhere, but there's a few here and there, and the farther away ones won't be as dark as the close ones. So here's what that little shadow can go in, you can put a little dark spot right there. Just add a few very poignant darks, we call them, in the write place. Now, the dark is going to be a little lighter in the water, so I add just a little bit of water to it. Judge where it might be, and just dropping a little dark, not too much there. I shaped my brush with that dark, and I'm going to carefully point in a couple, three there, one there, one there, adding a little horizontal. I think that that echoes what's down here, and then I soften, I don't lose the white there. Soften all the edges there. I like that. Let's take the tape off. When you take it off, remember, pull it to the side. Otherwise, you may rip your paper. Pull it off to the side. There we go. I'm going to pop it in a quick frame so we can take a look. There is an old trick that the Renaissance, well a lot of painters used and that was called the caritas, which means love in Latin treatment. That's when you put the frame on and you make a final adjustment. See the dark there. I'm just going to make a final adjustment right there. I like that, and you might dark there. You might want to just a little bit more darker there. See, there's always these little adjustments, very small adjustments, but once it's in the frame, I leave it. I never take it out. As Da Vinci says, no painting is ever finished, it's abandoned for something different. There we go, reflections. Last talk.