So it took me a while to move away from things on the water (boats, piers, bridges, etc) to painting the water. The method was twofold: learning to paint what I actually saw (rather than what I thought I saw) and actually sketching the water from life a lot.
Even now, I have to paint abstractly from coast trips I've actually taken. I paint where I've been, it's hard to paint from imagination though possible from memory to an extent. Painting from memory comes from familiarity - the more you've painted or sketched something the more mental reference material you have to draw on. But you still have to refresh the material every so often, the more often the better.
Though the sea is my love for now, I still enjoy the Thames River, and still always find something new from watching it. Ripples and waves are still a bit of an enigma, there's always room for improvement. And as you know the crashing sea waves boggled my creative mind over on Portland Island!
Something I started back in December is a 365 project, the popular "daily photo" activity on Flickr where people challenge themselves to take a photo everyday! (some choose self portraits, some random photos, some the same object every day) Mine was the surface of the Thames: Wavemechanics 365. Now I will admit straight off that I started the project before considering that I can't take my river with me if I leave town for a few days! haha! On that note, my 365 is probably going to end up a bit more like a 300.
But here's the fun part! I'm noticing completely new things. Seeing the river every day makes the tides so much more obvious. Colours changing with the sky and wind. Stuff floating by or not. Effects of boats. So I feel like I'm still learning.
And it's for you too. I decided when I started the project to make all the images Creative Commons copyright. You can use them, draw from them, jog your memory, or use them for elements in a larger work. So hopefully by the end of the year it will be a great reference library of water shots.
You can keep up with the images
- on my Flickr Wavemechanics set
- or through the Wavemechanics Blogger blog (which is automated from Flickr)
So how does everyone else practice their water? I know a few of us draw local spots, like Lindsay and Vivien but what about straight studio work? Or perhaps you're too distant to get a real view every day? What's your technique to stay familiar with your subject?