The Making of 'Whispering Waters'

25 January, 2020 4 comments Leave a comment

Shown above is 'Whispering Waters' watercolour on panel (no glass), one in a series depicting islands in northern lakes. Everything in this 24 x 18" painting is inspired by my imagination assisted by general reference photos from trips throughout northern Ontario, except for the green cedar-strip canoe, which is shown below in a close-up photo of the painting.

Detail of Whispering Waters watercolour by Karen Richardson

This 16-foot canoe was made by First Nations (Huron) in Wendake, Quebec for Simpsons-Sears. My husband bought it in their store in 1963 and we still own this fine craft. I painted it from life.

Detail of Whispering Waters watercolour by Karen Richardson

Shown above is a close-up photo of the island in the painting. I am thrilled with the mist in the background, which contrasts perfectly with the dark hues of the island and adds a sense of mystery to the scene. The complex reflections were very challenging but turned out even better than I had hoped.

The photo sequence below shows the painting in stages as I created this scene.

Whispering Waters watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

Step 1 (above) I drew the outline of island, canoe and rocks in pencil on 300-lb cold press bright white Arches watercolour paper. Then I masked the edges of the rocky point of land with masking tape, wet the rest of the paper with clear water, and painted on several mixtures of Prussian Blue, Cobalt Blue Deep and Primary Blue. I used sweeping horizontal strokes with a large brush, to simulate gentle ripples in the water. I used the same blue mixtures for the sky.

Whispering Waters watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

Step 2 (above) I added two more layers of blue to the water to get the deep colour I wanted, with a full day of drying in between layers, to minimize lifting of older layers when the new layers were applied. Then I removed the masking tape and painted the first layer of greens on the island trees.

Whispering Waters watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

Step 3 (above) I painted more layers onto the island trees and created their reflections, making sure to place them in the lighter sections of the ripples. All colours in this painting were mixed from the three blues mentioned previously, plus Permanent Yellow Lemon and Primary Red. These paints are all made by Maimeri in Italy and I love the rich, clean colours of these artist quality paints.

Whispering Waters watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

Step 4 (above) I mixed a neutral gray from three primary colours and painted the far shore on dry paper, adding clear water along the lower edge to look like fog. Once the paper was dry, I painted the straight blue reflection of the sky at the water level of the island. After that dried, I painted the rocks on the island.

Whispering Waters watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

Step 5 (above) Using masking fluid, I protected the gunwales of the canoe and the paddle on shore. Then I painted three separate layers to create the foreground point. The first was a grisaille (grayish) layer to set up the shadows while I could still see my pencil lines clearly. When that was dry, I wet the whole shore area and painted on several brownish mixtures and sprinkled on salt to create texture in the wash. When that dried I removed the salt and intensified the shadows.

Whispering Waters watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

Step 6 (above) I painted the canoe exterior and interior, removed the masking, and painted the gunwales and paddle.

Whispering Waters watercolour by Karen Richardson

Step 7 (above) I darkened the shadows throughout the painting to finish 'Whispering Waters' 24 x 18".

Mounting and Framing: Once the paint was fully dry, I mounted the watercolour paper to an archival wood panel, then varnished to provide protection from UV fading, then mounted the panel in a black wood floater frame (shown above).

I am very pleased with how this major work turned out. I feel like it is beckoning me to step into the scene, pick up the paddles, launch the canoe, and spend the day exploring the mysteries of this beautiful northern lake. I hope you feel the same pull to become part of this magical place.

For more details about this painting, click here.

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  1. Suzanne Lewis July 05, 2020

    I love the way you paint, I’m self taught and still very amateur. Do you ever critique people’s work? I’d love some constructive criticism. Thanks

  2. Elfrida Jeppesen February 09, 2020

    It looks so inviting; I can’t wait for summer now.

  3. Signe Harrison January 30, 2020

    Just beautiful, Karen.
    Thanks for sharing the photo sequence, so interesting.

  4. Keatha Bartlett January 28, 2020

    What a beautiful painting! It reminds me of the lake our cottage was on up near Parry Sound. It was one of my favourite places in the world.