Monday, February 23, 2009


By Armand Cabrera

The type of painting I create is about light falling across the surface of an object. Therefore, I am reluctant to separate painting into different subject matter. Whether you are painting a nose or a tree, you are still applying a small, flat brushstroke of color and Value onto your painting surface. If you get the shape right and the value and color right, your painting will be correct.

Avoid focusing on “things” and concentrate on “shapes”.

That said…it is worth noting that there are aspects of certain subjects that bear paying closer attention. Painting the sea from life can be challenging. A beach or coastal setting can be windy, foggy, hot or cold. On a sunny day, staring at the bright sea foam can be blinding, making it difficult to judge values. The constant motion of the water forces a more thoughtful approach to design and composition.

When painting water, remember its three aspects; motion, reflectivity and transparency.

Good design will allow one of these aspects to dominate the idea with the other two playing subordinate roles. When painting the sea, the motif also determines how you paint the water. A high vantage point calls for less detail because of the large amount of area portrayed.

In order to make something look larger, you must paint less detail.

The ocean is no exception. Painting waves on a large expanse of ocean diminishes its relative size. When including coastal elements, such as cliffs or rocks, it is essential to get the size relationships correct to maintain a sense of scale.

Water has form; it occupies a three dimensional space and has weight. A cubic yard of sea water weighs close to a ton (2000lbs). Even though water changes its shape, you must still paint the light falling across its form. You should also attempt to capture its volume. People often paint seascapes as if the water has no weight or volume. The waves seem to float and the sea foam looks as light as clouds. To avoid this, mass the shapes together in much the same way you would the leaves of a tree or the grass in a field. To paint water accurately, you must paint its weight. This is what conveys its power…and results in a successful painting.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Great Falls Demo

By Armand Cabrera

Since moving to Virginia two years ago this has become one of my favorite painting spots. The falls are spectacular any time of year and always make challenging subject matter.

Because of the angle of the sun I painted this 11x14 panel in full sunlight. Although this can be tricky for some I believe as long as you keep your palette and painting in the sun and you carefully measure the value relationships between objects you shouldn’t have any problems.

My palette for this painting consists of Viridian, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Alizarin,
Cadmium Red, Light Cadmium Yellow, Hansa Yellow and Utrecht White This is the largest palette I use and I felt it necessary to capture the water and rocks in all their color.

With a number 8 flat bristle brush I start with a horizontal line to establish the base of the falls and quickly begin to place the major shapes of the painting checking for relative size as I go.

Once I am satisfied I have the elements correctly I mass in an average tone for each shape according to color and value At this point the paint is still relatively thin.

I start building form out of my shapes looking for hue and temperature changes. I also loosely establish the wave patterns for the rushing water as it leaves the falls.

The rocks to the left of the falls are in direct sunlight with almost no shadows so I describe their form with color changes. I refine other elements as I go trying not to focus on one area because of the light changing.

I have switched to a number 6 flat brush and continue to refine areas. After watching the water I get a sense of its rhythm and paint what I think are the elements that capture the movement. I paint the sky and trees behind the falls keeping them simple so they don’t distract from the scene.

At the very last I use a number 4 b flat brush and add accents where I think
appropriate. I also take my big brush and refine the rocks with a more
careful observation and rework a couple of the waves with more definition.

While I was wrapping up my picture these two kayakers came over the falls.
I Thought I would include it because it gives you a sense of scale of the scene.
You can see the second kayak to the left in the pool above the falls.
Both men made it with no problem.

The finished painting Winter Great Falls 11x14 oil on linen on birch board. My painting time from start to finish is an hour and ten minutes.