Practice Session #2: Alhambra Reflection Success!

Ding dong the witch is dead, the wicked wicked reflection witch is dead! Sorta.

Remember, this is a practice session on painting paper, so was just looking to get the hang of a basic (read: decent) reflection in a relatively still pond. Pretty happy with how this came out. Spent an hour of actual painting on this tonight (which brings the total effort to about 3 hours), but remixing the paints was fast b/c I actually made notes from the first session so I could recreate without much effort.

Focused on darker values for most everything in the reflection, which seems to have worked out really well. Initially, I had taken it too far to the dark side, which I noticed once I started on the sienna walls, which were so dark there wasn’t going to be any chance I could get the doors and windows to show up very well in the reflection, even if I had used tube black. The solution was to work some white back into the paint on the “canvas” while everything was still wet – all praise oil paints!


Below is the zoom in view of the reflection area. In addition to the darker values, the lines are also softened so things are more fuzzy. Then I took a dry round #4 brush and pulled some paint from one area into it’s neighbor, i.e. start the brush in the green of the bushes, drag it lightly across the green and into the sienna of the building to give the appearance of a ripple in the water. Next was introducing some of the blue sky into the water, which was simply done with a lightened blue (with white) stroked in random areas of the pool; used a smaller, stiff brush, #2 flat. All the large block sections were also painted with long, broad horizontal strokes. It’s amazing to me how well horizontal strokes can make a surface look like water. The final step was to soften the entire water area by making long horizontal strokes across large sections with a very soft, very wide, very cheap 2″ wide flat brush. 


I was genuinely surprised at the effectiveness of the last step with the cheap big brush. I also avoided doing any vertical brush strokes down the reflection area, which simply wasn’t necessary with this type of pond. Might need that for a larger lake landscape, to elongate and distort tree reflections in the water, but for this highly reflective, still water pond, it would have detracted from the composition. This is where things started to fall apart with the Giverny wipeout which was exacerbated by the use of too much paint. 

Calling this good and the practice session finished. I’ve now sketched this scene a couple times and painted it once, so I think I will tackle an actual full size painting of this for my next project before attempting Giverny again. I’ll need to distort reality a little bit, though, b/c the composition with the palm tree in the center of the frame is boring. But there are nice curved lines from the palm fronds, and some awesome diagonal lines from both the building and the hedgerow bushes that it could prove to be a very well structured painting that draws the viewer in and through the space. Stay tuned…

2 thoughts on “Practice Session #2: Alhambra Reflection Success!

  1. Thanks! The reflection values are a little too dark, so that was a helpful lesson to learn. Interestingly, though, viewing it from across the room, the darker reflection really gives the impression that it’s water.
    I have done the freeze your paint, but it’s always a mess b/c I do it with saran wrap; you should never do anything with saran wrap, much less paint storage. I have been thinking about getting a palate box with a sealable top. Eventually I’ll head that direction, but for now the re-start every session is a good way to drive the color skills home.


  2. You’re off to a great start! Love the detailed notes. Must be really helpful to you when you start a new session — to be able to review what you did last time. Gosh, if i ever learn to use WordPress maybe i too can do this!! I do wonder about the colors in the reflecting pool relative to the “real” world above. What do you think? And one more thought — do you keep your paints on a pallette that could go in the freezer? That’s a trick taught to me by my teacher. The paints keep for weeks and they defrost in just a few minutes. Lets you avoid having to remix every time you start up again. I use one of those large rectangular plastic pallette boxes with a top that seals. pretty well. If i’m being redudant, my apologies. Carry on!


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