Great White Heron Watercolor

Great White Heron photograph
Great White Heron photograph by
Elise Beattie.

I have been working on different approaches to rendering this Great White Heron from a photograph by Elise Beattie who teaches, “Fearless Painting” classes. The first post about this is a pen & ink study.

Step-By-Step Watercolor

Great White Heron Sketch
Layout Pencil Sketch

While studying the picture, I kept feeling as though the best part of the picture was missing. What would that be? Well, the reflection of the bird on the water. Being an artist allows me to go ahead with adding the missing piece in as I render this subject. I believe it is called the artist license.

Render Sun Reflection

Background Sun Reflections
Background Sun Reflections

Watercolor requires that you start with where you want to reserve white, then begin laying down lightest colors first. In this that will be where the sun is laying on the water.

Background Reeds

Heron 03
Heron 03

I start to lay in the reeds behind and am careful to avoid where my Great White Heron is. Must preserve a pristine white area to work on later for the center-of-attention character.

Heron 04
Heron 04

As I add in the reeds on the right side additional lily pond type leaves are added to help the composition move in a circular motion.

Render Water

Heron 05
Heron 05

Using royal and cerulean blues I begin to put the ripples of the water in.

Heron 07
Heron 07

Reflections

A reflection is simply the original image turned upside down on the water. After turning it we need to take into account that the surface reflecting the image is not flat. As in this water scene with it’s many ripples that cut-up and distort the image. The more I apply the reed reflections and water colors I begin to lose the heron reflection so I apply a soft gray there that helps me to see it better.

Heron 09
Heron 09

This next step is scary as I apply a wash over all the water using ultramarine blue.

Heron 10
Heron 10

At this point I am darkening reflections and making details and adjustments. I should be able to finish this image this week. When I complete it I will be sure to post it so you can see it. Happy painting.

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse #8-9

From this point on I typically add details to the most blaring areas first. The first areas catching my attention are the two areas on the cliff where the mastic was applied. They are way too bright and the wrong shape. I apply a light wash of earth tones to both bringing the values more in line. OK, they are less blaring.

Cape Disap 08

Now I add shapes and colors as I see them from my reference images beginning with the middle area.

Cape Disap 09

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse #6-7

It is time to remove the mastic so I can get down to the details in painting this view. I start on the left side of the image, see the crisp whites appear where the yellow once was.

Cape Disap 06

Proceed to the right side till all of the mastic is removed. Not all areas that I am removing the watercolor resist from were totally white. It is especially noticeable in the cliff where some of the original light wash shows through.

Cape Disap 07

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse #5

The trees and shrubbery are next. I begin by drawing trees with a thin wash of light gray to show the furthest fading into the distance. Then I add greens and browns in various amounts to brighten the trees and shrubs as they come closer. Closer is brighter. If it is where the light is shining it becomes even brighter.

Cape Disap 04

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse #4

The cliffs are highlighted first with one of my favorite colors, Quinacridone Gold by Daniel Smith. I am replacing the colors I run out of with this brand whenever possible because the colors are so vibrant. To darken the Cliffside in the areas that are recessed along the shore I use an earth tone created by mixing greens and reds. This color combo creates the best blacks… a great array of darkness.

The same blues used in the sky are then added to the ocean swells along with greens and purples to mark the darkest areas in the waves. Water always seems to reflect the sky so well.Cape Disap 04

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse #1

I began with a sketch made from my own photograph of the area because I liked the wave layout better. It seemed much more sunny and welcoming of a pattern of currents.

Cape Disapp 01

I quickly realized that I would not be able to preserve all the little areas of white without using some mastic (watercolor resist) to reserve the many areas of white and foam in the surf. So I let the surface fully dry and applied this resist before I was able to proceed.