How to Paint Water in Acrylics | Jennifer Keller | Skillshare
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7 Lessons (41m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Materials

    • 3. How to See Water Like an Artist

    • 4. Shadows

    • 5. Midtones 

    • 6. Highlights

    • 7. Final Touches


About This Class

Water is life!  It’s beautiful and it attracts us to it. Many artists want to paint dynamic water, but they're not sure how to approach it.  In this class, I provide step-by-step instructions to break it down.  You’ll learn how to how to see water like an artist by creating light, shadows, reflections, movement, surface texture, and depth in this up-close water scene.  We’ll cover brushwork, color mixing, and only use three colors!  Once you understand how to paint water you can bring your new skills to your future waterscapes with more confidence.  


1. Introduction: Hello, love and welcome Teoh. How to paint water in acrylic paint. My name is Jennifer Laurel Keller. I'm an artist and an instructor, and in over 20 years of working in the arts, I've heard a lot of students ask about how to paint life like water because water is life, it's beautiful, and it attracts us to it. In this class, I will break it down into step by step instructions. You'll learn how to seawater like artist by creating light, shadows, reflections, movement, surface texture and depth. In this up close water scene will cover brushwork and only gives three colors. One. To understand how water works, you can bring your skills to your future. Water escapes with more confidence. Are you ready? Let's begin. 2. Materials: Hello and welcome to the materials lesson of this water class. First off, I have a canvas or you can use watercolor paper, and I also have a palate. I'm using a glass palette. I use synthetic bristle brushes, and here's the assortment. I have a medium bright brush, or you can use a flat and it's about the width of my finger. I have a medium, small, bright brush. It's a little bit smaller. I have a medium, small filbert brush. I don't use that one too much, and I have an extra small, bright brush. I also have a small round brush for tiny details, so I'm using golden fluid acrylic paints. But you can also use heavy body acrylic paints in any brand that you want. But I love these fluid acrylics, cause there they flow a lot on the campus. I have Failla blue, or you can use any dark blue that you like. I have titanium white, and I have cadmium yellow, medium Hugh, or you can use any yellow that you have around. I have one to do pints of water. I have a paint rag for catching drips, and I place all of my supplies on the same side of the canvas as my dominant hand. So I'm right handed and I keep it on the right hand side. All right. Up next will be the lesson where we talk about how to see this water. Seen like an artist. I'll see you there. 3. How to See Water Like an Artist: Hello and welcome to the lesson where we talk about how to observe are seen like an artist . So I want you to please download the image of this water scene. And I have that in a pdf for you so that you can see this up close so you can have this as a reference image. Okay, so before I start a painting, I take a while. Teoh, observe it. And I just think about what is in the scene. What do I notice about the light and the texture and the colors and the perspective and all those types of things. So I'm going to give you a moment to just think about this for yourself and just notice what's happening here. What do you notice? First off, and then as you look closer, what do you see? So if you want a pause and see how you dio I'll have some, uh, points that I'll make after you take a chance. Toe, look for yourselves. Okay. So the first thing I noticed is that the light source is on the top left of the canvas. So you're going to see more light colors on the top left And that also means that the light is coming in from that direction and hitting those waves on the top left side of the waves a little bit more than the right side. So the sun is over to the left in the sky, Um, in the scene. The second thing that I notice is that there are more details in the foreground, So on the bottom third of the canvas that is the foreground. That's what's closest to us, and you can see that there are more fine details in the water down below because it's closer and we can focus on them more easily and you'll notice in the background. Things are a little bit more KZ and all of the details kind of a blur together a little bit . Next. The waves are larger in the foreground, then they are in the background. So as things go off into the distance, they become smaller. They are, they're shorter from top to bottom. So a wave that's the same size in the background as in the foreground in reality will appear much larger and take up more canvas space in the foreground and things get incrementally smaller as you move back, so it's gonna be from top to bottom. They'll be smaller and also from side to side. And then another thing that I notice is that the waves are coming in in sets. So you'll notice that a lot of these waves are lined up together on a slight diagonal. And it's almost like a Ridgeline going down a mountain like, or a series of mountain peaks that go off into the distance. It it reminds me a lot of a landscape, and they, um, they come in in these loose sets, so it's almost like a line of waves coming in together. And then there's another one after that, and another one after that and so forth and you'll notice space in between. So there are these larger waves that are coming in sets, but also there are little, many waves in between them's, and that's more like surface texture of the water. So in some areas, between the sense, there's a lot of light because there is less elevation in the waves and more light is hitting the surface of the waters. So keep that in mind as we move into the painting session as well, and another thing I noticed is that this painting is mostly monochromatic. So there's one color that I'm using for the most part, which is blue. And then the white is to add light. So we're gonna be adding white to the blue to get different shades of blue for the way that the water is absorbing the light and reflecting the light. There is a tiny bit of yellow you'll notice on my palette as well. And that is going to be, um, hinting that there is a warm light, a yellow light up in the sky, that the surface of the water is picking up as well. So there's not yellow in the water, but there is in the sky, and it's being reflected on the surface of the water. So that's the third paint that will use so up. Next, we are going to work on the shadow section of this painting. So the darkest areas of the painting and we're gonna get out the paint and get going, so I will see you there 4. Shadows: hello and welcome to the shadow section of the class. So I'm going to begin with just blue. This is a very dark blue. It's fellow blue, and I'm going to grab my medium bright brush. This is the largest of the brushes that I have, and I'm going to put it in the water just to dampen the bristles and then brush off Any water drops onto my rag, and now I am going to tap into that blue flip the brush over, load the brush really well. You don't want to load it too much, but you want to make sure there's enough paint there, and I'm using the brush from side to side. I have the bristles going, the narrow direction, not the broad direction. And I'm making these wavy areas where the waves have the most shadow, which typically means they're the tallest waves. So they're blocking the light from coming in from behind. And I really would love for you to have your reference image up or printed and available for you to look at so that you can follow this along. It's kind of like piecing in a puzzle, so I've just got a lot of these horizontal wavy Marx happening, and they're loosely coming in in these sets. So as I mentioned in the observations, lesson waves come in in sets. And then around these larger waves, I'm gonna pop in some smaller little waves, so they kind of just fill in around the larger waves. And when you have your reference image next Teoh, I typically will pay attention to what's happening in the the image and then keep my eyes moving from the image to the painting as I paint along. And what I do is, um, not photo realism. I'm really just getting the essence of this painting. I am, uh, having a loose brush stroke. Very fluid, very watery. And it's almost like you become the water you take on this watery element and play with it with your own hand and just kind of do your best. Teoh. Imitate the shapes of the shadows that are in the scene that you're looking at. So here's another larger wave. Um, it is really just like this up and down kind of wiggly line, but it's not. It's not like a snake. It, um it has its own organic shape and it's kind of fun just to interpret it in your own way. Uh, your paintings gonna look a lot different than mine. So it's okay to have it be a little bit different. Here's another wave, and this one has, like, a couple peaks to it. Um, it's just folding down in this set that's coming in and you can see they're all lined up a little bit on that horizontal, Um, a line. Okay, so now I have some smother waves. Thes They're not going to be all the same width. The line is gonna be thicker in some places and more wispy and others thinner. It all depends on how much pressure you put on the brush. How loaded the brushes, the more pressure you put on the brush, the more paint will come out of it, and the more thicker the lying will be. So if you want to do a really dainty thin line, you just wanna use a tiny little bit of pressure. But if you want to make a more chunky area where there's a lot of shadow, you can apply more pressure to the brush, and it's really just a trial and error kind of thing until you get the hang of it. But it's hard to mess up this layer. You, um, will be painting over this and around it so you can always make corrections with the next color of blue that we use once we start adding white. So it's no problem, and you can kind of just follow along with me as I go. But again, years will look a lot different. And you can see I kind of waved my hand around to just kind of get the feeling and the movement of these waves. Um, there's a lot of motion happening on the surface of the water. Lots of movement and water is really just like a, um, like liquid light. It's the reflections are moving all of the time. So here here's another large waves, and it's trailing off as it's getting, um, lower. Okay, and then I just fill in the negative space with smaller waves around. So this is more of a flat area of the water surface, not anything too big in there, so some of them are a little bit larger than others. But it's really just those many waves in between the sets of waves. Andi, they kind of, um they keep this sort of uniform space. So each one has a similar amount of space in between the marks that you're making and they turn into this tapestry kind of so that one's rolling over. That's another bigger wave kind of rolling, rolling in and you'll be able to see the finished painting in that PDS. So those were kind of medium size. Just little small guys there have sped up the painting because, um, it's all just filling in at this point. As we move back, the waves become a little bit smaller. They're still larger waves out there, but they're just smaller two s because they're further away from us. So, um, there's a taller when, So that would be a bigger wave, like we have a friend, but it's further away. So it's smaller, and also things get slightly flatter. For the most part, you'll still have some waves that are really peaking up. But as we get into the background, things do become more flat because those details are smaller and they flatten out of it. So you can see here. I'm just kind of going back and forth to fill in the texture of the water. Things are much smaller now. They're shorter from side to side and top to bottom. And by the very end, they're just little tiny dashes out there. I'm not using a whole lot of pressure on the brush and keeping things really light, light pressure and that is it. So, up next, we're gonna work on the mid tone. So we're gonna add some white to this paint and fill in around the shadows. I'll see you there. 5. Midtones : Hello and welcome to the mid tones lesson of this water class. I'm gonna add some titanium white to the palate, and I'm going to go down a brush size to my meeting and small bright brush. But if you have a flat brush, that's totally fine. I'm going to dampen the brush, wipe off any drips on my rag, and then I bring some white over and add some blue to it, and I wanna make sure that it appears to be one step lighter than the available that comes right out of the tube. I want to be able to see a slight contrast when I start painting, and as I come in at the bottom, I'm gonna just paint around these shadows. The foreground is, of course, closer to us. It's lower down on the canvas, and because it's closer to us, it's closer to our feet. It's below us a little bit more instead of out in the distance so you can see down into the water a little bit more so there is going to be more blue showing in the foreground more of these midtown's because you can actually see down into the water So if you imagine, you know you're at the leg and you can peer down and see the depth of the water. And then things moved up were looking further out, and we're gonna get a few more highlights because the light is coming in at this angle from the top left from where that light source is coming from Sun. Uh, and that light is going to hit the top of the waves. So little by little, I'm introducing more gaps right above the shadows, because that is where the light is gonna hit the top most part of those waves. So I'm just moseying along filling in the area under the shadows because the surface of the water slopes away from those waves and it's more of a gradual transition. But at the top, it's getting all that sharp light. So I'm just filling in. And then as I come further back into the mid ground, um, the middle ground and then especially at the top in the background, there is gonna be even more light. So I'm allowing a lot more to come in and right about at the halfway point here, I'm making a lot of more shorter brushstrokes. And there's a lot more light hitting the surface of the water and not just the top of the waves. So all those little ripples out there, um, will pick up more sunlight because that the perspective is further away and were angled up more towards the sudden war towards that light source. So it's really just a matter of where you are in relationship to light source and the shapes and forms. There is a lot of, um, there are a lot of different components because the sun moves, the water moves. And so you just have to imagine this one moment where, um, it's this time of day. If you were to do this at sunset or in the morning, a different time of day, the sun would be in a different place and the light would be slightly different. But for now, I'm keeping the background really sparsely painted with this mid tone blue because there is more reflection out in the background. All right, and then I'm gonna go one step lighter. I'm going to add another amount of titanium white to my mix notice. I put it a little bit off to the right so I could go back and access that blue from before if I wanted. I don't want to mix the whole thing up, so I'm on now. I have two areas that Aiken pull paint from, and I'm filling in this next level of light blue in and around the waves. And this I'm adding just here and there, above and below those shadows, going with the movement of that negative space over the blue, some of its being painted over some of that white. And I really just want you to look at your reference image and notice where those are and it's normal to get a little bit lost. This area is kind of sloping down off of this larger waves. I'm just popping in the's horizontal small brush strokes as it slopes down from the wave, really bringing a lot more of this medium blew into the surface of the water, now not just the waves, but in between them and then same as I did before in the background. Just a light back and forth. Small brush strokes. The water really enlightens up as it gets flatter, and the waves are not as tall and I'm allowing still a lot of white to show through, but covering a bit of it up as well. Okay, so you can see now that things are really shaping up with those highlights on the tops of those bigger waves in the foreground. And I still have a less detail in the back, Right. So up next, we're going to be adding our highlights to this scene, and we're gonna be taken. That blew up a notch in how much white we add, So we'll see you there. 6. Highlights: All right. Welcome to the highlights lesson of with this water class. Okay, So I'm I grabbed my extra small, bright, brash I do love this brush And I'm bringing a lot more white over to the mixture moving over a little bit to the right so I can still pop my brush into those darker blues if I want And I'm looking for quite a bit more contrast at this point. So we're getting really light and I'm gonna use the brush horizontally. So the bristles air kind of moving along with the contour of blue surface of the water. So, um, I'm adding a lot more to the tops of the waves at this point because more light is hitting the tops of the waves, but also bringing in some, uh, some lines on the surface of the water where it's not in a wave because they're those little baby waves in between larger waves that pick up that light and any time we add a lot of highlights to a surface were really adding texture. And in this case, it's very reflective. So we're not blending a lot on the canvas. We're not doing very, very much as faras like gradual transitions. Everything is really sharp, and the lines are really strong in this foreground because there's a lot more focus and we can see those details. So I'm just moving along, adding this light blue to the top of the waves and the surface of the water. So here this is the area in the painting where there's a lot of light hitting the surface of the water in between these two sets of larger waves. So I'm bringing a lot of light blue into this area and covering a lot of that mid tone from before, but also letting some of it show through because we want that variation. We want to see that their little many waves on the surface of the water, and I'm just circulating around the canvas now, bringing more light in to the surface. I'm going to skip over that large wave over to the left because that is really casting a big shadow. And the way that I could make this set Seymour raised up is by adding more like behind it. So all of your waves were gonna pop more when people see that there's more light behind them and contrast is so important here. So here in the background, I'm using a softer brushstroke. My brush is going side to side like it has been in the past, but I'm allowing more area to be covered up because there is more light in the background. Okay, And now I'm gonna add even more white here. It's almost like it is a pure white at this point, just straight out of the two. But there is just a slight, slight hint of blue here, and this is gonna be really important in that background where so much light is hitting the water. And I'm just filling that in all of the little blank areas back there. I'm just gonna fill him in. I'm using less pain on my brush. I'm a smaller brush, so it carries less paint. And I'm allowing the edges of my brush strokes, too. Not be as harsh. It's OK if they're a little bit softer. Um, almost like a dry brush technique. So you can see it almost looks a little bit foggy out there because we don't see as much texture. We don't see as many of the details because we can't focus is well back there, all right, and just feeling that in. And now I'm coming in with even more light to that area in between those two sets because I really want people to notice that they are separate, that it's two different sets coming in even though they are subtle. This is not like big wave sets like you would surf on. They're really just a close up. So, um, they're not very tall, but because the entire surface of the water is moving all the time. It kind of rolls all of these waves, and it's just, you know, it's what you make of it. Don't feel like you have to do things exactly like me. My painting is very different than yours will be, and that's OK, because that's how we develop our own personal style. Okay, so now I washed my brush out and I just have white on my brush. And remember how I said The light source is coming in from that top left. So I'm popping in the lightest highlights on the top left side of the waves because that's the direction that the light is coming in and now we start to really see these waves pop it . They become alive because we have so much contrast there. Backlit. So the front of the wave is darker than the back of the wave, and they really become more lifelike now because there is a believable amount of light hitting them. We understand that there water and that they're reflecting the sun and knowing bringing in more highlights to the flat part of the water in between these two sets. And it's it's fun because you can see the shadow that's cast from that large wave that's on the left side, about halfway up with the canvas, and it really seems like it is not, or that it's shading that part of the water that's in front of it, okay, and then just kind of dancing around in the background, creating a lot more contrast behind that set of waves. So I'm really putting in a lot of white behind those large shadows, and then this wave has like these little trails coming up, coming up it just a bit and really accenting this area with a lot of late. All right, same back there. There's a ton of light in the back in the background. So it almost seems like, Well, what was the point of painting and all of that blue if we're just going to cover it up with weight? But I promise you that the more you layer with acrylic paint, the more rich and dynamic and the more depth you add to your paintings. So, um, if you ever feel like you're painting is just really flat, just add more layers. Keep going, and people notice it really is effective. So here I'm just cutting through some of those larger areas of blue. I'm really piling on the light factor back here. Anything that you want to have stand out, create that contrast behind it because that's where the lights coming from. Looking really good at this point. I mean, the painting could almost be done at this point, but we're going to keep working with it and at a few more details. But take it this far as you want to go. Um, just have fun with it. You know, if you goof up, you can always paint blue over your bad brushed drugs. No big deal, so you can see now I'm adding a big area of white behind that set. So we're starting to see them come in in these rows, okay? Adding a few hits of highlights to the foreground in these loose organic brushstrokes. It's kind of just a little dance up here, Okay? Adding highlights adding highlights. This one needed that great filling in that area with this decorative reflection. And just when you think you've added in enough light at a little bit more, a lot of new students will shy away from using highlights. And I really encourage you to spread out the spectrum of light and dark, because contrast is gonna make your painting seem more complete. Okay, up next are the final touches. Where will bring in more of that sunny yellow to the surface of the water and deep in the shadows a little bit. And also I goof up a little bit, so I'm gonna show you how to troubleshoot some bad brush drugs. So we'll see you there 7. Final Touches: All right. Welcome to the final touches of this water painting. I grabbed my small round brush, and I am going to pick up some plain blue. So just the pale blue out of the tube or whatever blue you're using, and I'm gonna deep in the shadows. So, um, blue when we painted on is slightly transparent. So we get some of the light from the canvas behind the paint. So we're just going to double up with another coat of this dark blue, and it's going to deepen those lovely shadows. And really, um, bring that, uh, low shadow color in. We want to get a lot of contrast so that these waves read as being shadows and being elevated off of the top of the water. And now I'm just gonna add a couple drops of yellow to my palette. Don't need much, and I'm going to tinge the yellow with white so that it's very, very light, almost white, and I'm gonna bring it into the lighter areas of the painting. Especially in this band of light in the middle of the painting. This is going Teoh, make The whole slope of this section seemed like it's picking up the sunlight, and I'm just going over my highest highlights now. So I have, um I haven't hitting the top of my waves. Now, here is where I goof up and I'm gonna show you. I wanted to keep this on the video because I want to show you how to correct something that you don't like and it's part of painting. I don't want you to beat yourself up. If you're unhappy with something, you try because it's important to experiment. So I encourage you to experiment. And then if you don't like it, here's what I recommend. So here we have me going in with the blue and in the scene. I was noticing that there were some little tiny, like micro shadows in the highlights because even they had little mini waves in a minute. I don't know. I was seeing something, but I was painting lines that I really didn't care for. I was unhappy with the results. So right now I'm bringing more shadow into the surface of the water, not just the highlights, and I do like that. So I encourage you to add some small brush strokes onto the surface of the water, especially in the foreground, and now I'm using my filbert brush. If you don't have your filbert brush, you can just use a bright brush or a flat brush. But the filbert brushes a little bit softer with those rounded edges, and I really want Teoh have more of a blended look in the background because there's less texture out there. I'll get to how I fix those lines in a bit, but I just kind of sat with them for a while and realized that I wanted to turn it around. So I'm just painting over them with a light color like I used behind them. So any time you mess up, you want to paint over it with the color that waas under it that you painted over. So here, because that white is a little bit transparent. You can see through it a bit, and I started running out of light on my palette, so I decided I needed to cover them up almost 100%. So I am coming in with a new layer of white and, um, you know, the more layers the more coats you use, the more it will cover up your goof. And now I I'm experimenting with how to bring in a little bit more texture in those highlighted sections, and I tinted some blue with some white, and I'm playing with that. It's still a little dark, but you know, I'm trying it out and I move over to that light blue and miss is about right. So as you work in the section, you might want to add some light blue to your highlights. If you want to text, arise them a little bit. But if you just want to leave them white and yellow, please feel free to keep it simple. Sometimes that is, honestly, the best method if you're if you just want to keep it a clean and simple. So now I'm just covering those up with a little bit of yellow and white, and that looks pretty good to me. And that's really all it needs. So I dark in those shadows. I brought in more light and warmth with the yellow, and I'm happy with the way this painting looks. So that's gonna be free today. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for joining me for this class. I had a great time creating this piece. If you enjoyed this class, please consider following me for future updates on new classes that I offer. And remember, art is meant to be fun. So if you just show up in practice with an open mind, you learn something new every time. Happy painting, much love.