Painting boats in watercolor in rising fog

Painting into damp watercolor paper

While the paper is still damp I soften the edges around the sun to enhance the feeling of early morning fog. I also drag some of the surrounding color across the surface of the sun reflection. If I lose too many of the highlights in this area I re-establish them by lifting with a barely damp brush (Figure 8).

Painting shore in mist scene.Soften edges around sun with damp brush and lift out any lost sun reflection highlights in the water
Figure 8: Soften edges around sun with damp brush and lift out any lost sun reflection highlights in the water

If the sky and water area is still wet or even damp paint in the small boats to the left and the distant hill and trees as well as their reflections. If the paper is just damp make sure you have very little water in your brush or you will create an unwanted  back run or cauliflower shape. Make these shapes a little indistinct to enhance the mist effect. If in doubt about your ability to do this step without ruining a perfectly good sky and water painting then just let it dry completely and then paint it wet on dry with a very weak wash (Figure 9).

Painting distant hill and trees in mist and their reflection
Figure 9: If the sky and water area are still wet paint in the distant hill and trees and their reflections.

Let your watercolor painting dry thoroughly at this stage before proceeding further!

Once the above it totally dry you can move onto the boat painting stage.

You can return your easel back to a 25 degree angle for the rest of the painting.

Painting boats in watercolor

Here are the steps for painting boats in watercolors for this type of mist scene. The first step is to paint the lightest areas with a pale wash of Cad Orange with touches of French Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna and maybe some Alizarin Crimson dropped in to hint at possible shapes. The shapes in this stage are not very distinct but they are very important as they help enhance the feeling of space in this part of the painting. But don’t dwell on their actual physical meaning – if you can’t work out what a shape is in the photograph or in a scene just paint the “shapes” as you see them that will be enough!  Let this dry. This step can be seen in Figure 10.

Painting the highlights in the mass of boats. Watercolor painting.
Figure 10: Painting the highlights in the mass of boats

I now paint the remaining boat shapes including masts and any other pole like objects. For the darker shapes I use various mixes of French Ultramarine, Cobalt Blue, Alizarin Crimson, Burnt Sienna and Cad Orange.

I start painting from the left hand side and basically look at the tonal shapes in the photograph and I go with that. For the hulls of the sailing boats I use a very weak mix of Cad Orange and French Ultramarine. I make sure that the tones of shapes lighten as they move further away. The booms are painted with quite strong French Ultramarine and a little bit of Burnt Sienna. Once this stage is completed let it dry fully. See Figure 11 for this step.

Watercolor painting of boats in San Diego Harbor
Figure 11: Watercolor painting of boats

After the major boat shapes are dry you can use a small fine pointed round brush to paint all the extra lines (rigging) and spars etc. to finish all the above water shapes. If you have difficulty painting straight lines then by all means use a ruler to lightly draw them in pencil first. Don’t make all the thin lines too sharp as you want some shapes to appear to disappear into others or into the sky. See Figure 12.

Painting the remaining boat shapes, masts, spars and lines with watercolors
Figure 12: Painting the remaining boat shapes, masts, spars and lines with watercolors

Our watercolor painting is now nearly complete, even through it still looks strange without the reflection of the boats the effect of rising fog should still be quite evident. To finish of the painting we need to paint in the reflections on the surface of the water.

Continue to: How to paint reflections of boats on water