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Monday, October 26, 2009

Boston Harbor: From Sketch to Final Work

I had meant this study to be more of a step-by-step demo, but I ended up forgetting to photograph more often or more evenly during the painting process, so now all I have is some snapshots of the work in progress. They still provide some insight into how the painting evolved, so here is the development of Boston Harbor:

1. Pencil sketch, fairly detailed. My goal was to practice painting water, and to use a combination of colors I hadn't used before: turquoise and scarlet. I was attracted by the diagonal lines that lead to the main boats. I "invented" some details, such as the figures. In my reference photo, somehow, the scene is deserted.

2. First washes, using cadmium scarlet and cobalt turquoise in various combinations, with some cobalt blue and some magenta as well. I didn't want the sky to be blue, so I used the diluted scarlet for a pale orange hue.

3. I added glaze of cadmium scarlet to unify the distant buildings, and of cobalt turquoise over the scarlet on the nearby buildings, to darken and cool down the color. It was difficult to work the sunlight because this photo was taken in the middle of the day, with the sun high in the sky. It is trickier to define shapes without longer, darker shadows.

4. I added the water very quickly, with loose strokes of a large brush, with cobalt turquoise and a little scarlet to gray it down in shadow or reflex areas. I pulled some of the cobalt turquoise onto the boats as a reflected color. I added darks and other details, using indigo mixed with the previous colors.

5. I got tired, moved on to other paintings and left this unfinished at this stage for a couple of months, until I finally got back to it yesterday. I finished the shapes of the boats and added details in the middle ground (too much I think). I used watercolor pencils to add lines and details and color in some areas, as in the poles, for instance, to finish the piece.
Boston Harbor, W&N watercolors on Waterford CP paper, 22x15


  1. This was awesome! Thanks for posting and for sharing your ideas. A beautiful painting indeed!