How I Started my ‘Waterfall’ Painting

Last weeks Thoughts on Thursday was all about how to start a painting with an underpainting I referred to a recent commission – ‘Waterfall’.  I promised to show you how I started this painting, so here goes…

At the start of a commission I spend a lot of time planning.  After meeting the client to determine that I have understood their requirements the work in my head really starts.

I think of the colours I will use and the composition.  In the case of ‘Waterfall’ it was the position in their living room that determined the size, it needed to be long and thin.  There was another challenge with this painting, it was to hang amongst two others that were painted in a vibrant palette and there was a third thing to consider – the other paintings had used texture.


My Practice Canvas Sheet – Note the Colour Notes and Waterfall

After ordering a bespoke canvas I started experimenting with the colour. I got a large sheet of canvas paper and a load of paint.

Aware that I was going to be painting both a waterfall requiring blues, rocks and a tree in Autumn colours I thought carefully about the blues I would use and the background colour.  Despite the fact that the waterfall, so the blue, was the focal point the tree also featured in this painting. I decided on a warm undertone.

Mixing various warm colours with the blues, I tested to create the correct turquoise for the water and the dark blues in the shadows.  I liked the idea of complementary orange ‘Autumn  colours’ working opposite to the turquoise, you can see some of the oranges and browns here.


Start of Waterfall – Note the Quinacridone Gold Undertone

After much thought I decided on one of my favourite colours for the undertone – Quinacridone Gold – it makes me smile! So I started by covering the canvas completely in this colour before drawing.

I then put in the darks around the waterfall together with some of the white highlights at the bottom of the fall where the water would be foaming, allowing some of the undertone to peak through the dark edged rocks.

The tones are already present but not the highlights.
Waterfall – Close up of the Water

Focusing on the water I created horizontal, smoothly blended strokes. I wanted to convey a calmness, the waterfall I left, as you can see, it’s still very yellow.  I did paint in the rock and some dark streaks over which the water would be cascading.

The next step was to create the tree trunks and leaves. There were so many layers for the leaves but more on all this in the next blog..

Thoughts on Thursday – How I Started my ‘Waterfall’ Painting

2 thoughts on “Thoughts on Thursday – How I Started my ‘Waterfall’ Painting

  • October 16, 2017 at 3:06 pm

    Wow…..cant wait to see the finished work xx

    • October 16, 2017 at 7:19 pm

      Thanks Michelle… I’ll finish this blog next week xx


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