Behind The Painting – Reflection Falls

painting of waterfall title art

So often I hear my wife or kids say “why in the world would you want to paint that“?

It’s funny the way the mind of an artist works. Whether a photographer or painter, I suppose we see things as they could be. We look through a lens of inspiration all around us, as seen in everyday life.

Artistic Photo Reference

As many artists do, I spent a lot of time throughout my life taking photos for artistic reference. You never know what shot will become the next painting inspiration.

Like this photo, taken on a hike through the Angeles National Forest.

Waterfall over rocks photograph

Long after that hike was over and had become a distant memory, I ran across this reference photo in my quest to find an interesting subject for a limited palette painting.

If you are an artist, you should read my article about how and why artists should paint with a limited  to challenge themselves.

So Why This Photo?

Something about the composition of the rocks in relation to each other, and the trees behind it drew my eye. The manner in which the rocks intersected would make for a visually interesting waterfall painting.

The texture of the moss and even the leaves would also serve as an artful emphasis. Granted, this would take a little imagination…of what could be rather than simply the reality of what the eye sees.

For example: the manner in which rocks came down in a slant and intersect each other could create a visually dynamic waterfall. The reality is somewhat underwhelming. Now take a look at what I did with the falls in this close up of the painting.

waterfall sunset painting

By accentuating the waterfall as it spills over the unique rock formation, it gave me an opportunity to play with light as an accent in this piece.

The water doesn’t end in a foamy mass, but rather a visually stunning highlight and pop of color. I wanted to keep the eye focused on where the water would come down and be the focal point culminating in the reflective pool below.

You’ll note that in the actual photo the reflection is a mirror image. I wanted to keep the painting more impressionistic rather than detail oriented, so it became prudent to leave that mirror image out.

Artistic Challenges With This Painting

Because I used a limited palette for this painting, the challenge would be in the highlights. I wanted the painting to have a sunset flavor to it. So amid the green of the forest, the hues of sunset break through the trees.

This is actually tricky, and as an artist I had to “cheat” the light to do it. In the real world, this kind of light isn’t going to give you a green shadowing. It would produce more of a dark grayish blue, or subtle purple haze. Since I am limiting my palette to see how far I can go with two main hues, it stretches the imagination to how you can achieve a visually stunning highlight and shadow interplay with just those colors…even if it breaks the rules.

Adding An Element For Interest

I felt the painting looked a little plain when it was completed. Even as I worked the lighting, it wasn’t enough to sustain the piece on it’s own. So to visually help it out, I added a tree that is not in the photograph.

The tree would be as if it was bending into the picture… it couldn’t come from the bottom because there is water there, so I had to curve it into the picture.

Artist gotta figure out how to cheat to make things work better.

The lighting is what I was hoping for. To get that sense of the sunset flavor in the painting. Creativity includes finding ways of pushing color into different possibilities. I’ll look at the color wheel and say what color do I want to play with. And that will be my main color to do a haze over everything…or the under color coming through to effect the look. That’s one of the ways I approach limited palettes.