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Painting Exercise: Painting Rocks Under Water

Glazing Techniques (using transparent color)
Many of my students have had trouble painting rocks under water, I thought this exercise using glazing techniques (thin, transparent color) might be helpful. Following are the techniques I use (see "Fool's Gold" in the gallery oil paintings. It contains a lot of rock forms in the creek). I hope you enjoy this exercise.



About thin color (transparent glazing)

If you were to look through a sheet of yellow or blue plastic, everything would appear yellow or blue. If you were to overlap them, the yellow and blue together would visually blend and make everything appear green. This is the simple principle behind transparent glaze painting.

When a transparent color is applied over another, the top color alters the first. This is because light rays mix, creating a visual color mixture. Great depth can be achieved in by using several layers of transparent color. In a glaze painting, light rays penetrate the layers, strike the canvas surface (white or color) and reflect back to the eye creating various visual color mixes.Extremely transparent colors are needed for the final layers of glazes.

Each layer of color must be thoroughly dry before the next is applied. I sometimes paint a very thin coat of separator varnish between glazes but it is not always necessary. For example, in this exercise, the green of the water is made with combinations of Indian yellow, phthalo blue and burnt sienna. These can be layered individually or blended in the same step.

If you would like your water to be more blue in a particular area, apply a stronger glaze of blue, or use several thin layers of blue (for green, add Indian yellow). These techniques allow the light rays to reflect from the white base, through the color layers, and back to the eye for a visual mixing effect.


Palette of colors & brushes needed for this tutorial:

Grumbacher Pre-Tested Oil Paints:
Titanium White,
Thalo Blue®,
Permanent Blue (Ultramarine Blue)
Raw Umber,
Yellow Ochre,
Burnt Siennna
Winsor & Newton Oil Paint:
Indian Yellow

Brushes used are in the Bright Style close to 1/2" wide. "Bright means that the bristles are equal or just a bit longer than the width of the ferrule. The reason I call out a size of 1/2" is that brush size numbers vary greatly from maker to maker.

Backgrounds in all steps are soft to show the delicate color changes. ©1994 William F. Powell

Click here to begin the exercise with Step 1

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