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February 20, 2013 / pleinairman

From the Mailbag: Luminous Water

Oak Creek Ripples, 12×9 pastel
Available at Auction!

A reader writes:  I entered a juried pastel show recently and saw a pastel painting that interested me.  It was a  painting of rapid water flow, as one would see during a spring run-off of water over boulders and small rocks in a stream. What interested me about the painting was the luminosity of the water. On close inspection, I could not detect anything, but perhaps was it an acrylic overlaying the pastels that represented the water?

Having not seen that particular painting, I can’t speak to it.  I can, however, speak to the luminosity of water in general.  The illusion of luminosity has to do with contrast – but not just value contrast.  You need to consider temperature contrast, as well.

In my painting above, the water sparkles and seems to glow from within.  Part of it does have to do with value.  The sun “diamonds” on the water are the lightest value in the painting.  I made sure that I kept that in mind and keyed down all the other values in the piece.  If you look at the sun diamonds and compare them to the value of the water, you’ll note that the water is significantly darker.

Additionally, note the water itself and the colors within it.  I’ve varied the color from blue-green to red-orange.  These are not only color complements, but they are temperature complements, too.  The red-orange reads much warmer than the blue-green, leading to a luminous quality.  (The French Impressionists discovered this principle.)  By the way, the orange color is due to sunlight reflecting off the creek bottom – not an uncommon sight in the “Red Rock Country” of Sedona, Arizona!

In case you’re interested, this little pastel painting is available at auction at my Daily Paintworks store.  The auction ends in only a few days!  Click here for the auction.

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