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More about water

There are a few similarities between drawing skies and drawing water. If you can imagine a still surface of water nicely lit up by a bright sunshine, you can also imagine how simple and easy it would be to use a piece of white paper to draw that clear surface a little bit like you would draw a sky. Most the time, if you feel that you have to draw lines and it is sometimes the case when drawing still water, make sure they stay horizontal. It is in fact hard to resist from the temptation to draw vertical lines when you see the reflexion of a vertical object. That’s when the technique of the horizontal lines should be respected in spite of the temptation. Even when the water surface is agitated, the horizontal lines should be used… Of course, the undulations of the water seem to push us toward other kinds of lines going the way the water goes. It’s tempting to fall into the trap. Actually, unless the water is really running in all different ways, it’s best to keep horizontal lines as much as possible. Of course, it is needed to skip a few lines here and there and to “organize” a certain irregularity among them. When the weather gets rough or if we are to draw a waterfall or some rapids on a river, the lines we draw should follow the general movement of the flow. Just make sure you don’t overdo it. As with skies, when we draw water, we have to be very bashful with lines. In drawing water, the plain surface of the paper is actually the best base as long as we know how to shape it with the right amount of lines. The picture is a good example of how the lines follow the flow until it becomes stagnant or at least flat. Notice the few lines used to show a large volume of water. Using too many lines would have taken away the impression of heaviness. When drawing skies or water, let’s be greedy on these tempting lines…

Where is the landscaper in you?

Where is the landscaper in you? Great is the temptation to go through the Signus lesson on landscape too quickly, to swallow it like a child swallows his candy. Be

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careful not to miss the essential. Do you feel like a landscaper? How do we find the answer to this question? Having the technique to represent the various elements around us is rather useful, but not sufficient. The different chapters in the lesson give you the tools that will allow you to identify more clearly your understanding of nature as a model: Did you ever find yourself in the country with that “breath taking” feeling because everything seems so alive and majestic? Did you ever see the light makes the colours actually vibrate and have you ever felt the atmosphere full of that quite and peaceful spirit? Have you had the impression of well-being that makes you want to enjoy it as long as possible? Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) loved agitated weather like thunder storms, wild oceans and strong winds… John Constable (1776-1837) thought the sky should be the dominating element of a painting because “it is source of light and it overpowers everything” David Cox (1783-1859) wrote, in his treaty on landscaping: « the main part in painting landscape lies in communicating to our spirit the most powerful effect that various landscapes can produce.” What about you? Do you know what really moves you in a scenery? The quality of the Signus lesson on landscape lies in making you meet the subject with a strong observation work, true guide line of the Signus course, with a deep introspection, putting feelings into words, identifying what makes our spirit fully enthused.

Leaves and trees

We all have a general knowledge of what a tree looks like. It might seem obvious, but there is quite a difference between drawing something you have never seen or touched and something you have known all your life. Even if you are a city person, trees are something you must have seen or touched. They’re part of our life. But even if you think you know what trees are like and even if your eyes feel aware of the general outline of trees or forests, drawing leaves and trees could be very deceiving. When children try to represent trees, even though they have lived among them since they were babies, they tend to misunderstand the basic shape of leaves, branches and trunks. The most common mistake is to consider the branches and the trunk as something of a different nature. It is important to visualize the branches as the continuity of the main trunk. First of all, most trees don’t grow straight. They are full of curves and irregularities. From bottom to top, they have nothing but unexpected bending and twirling shapes. Almost every tree has a strong and thick base actually needed for its solidity. The roots give an impression of strength and grace at the same time. They sort of counterbalance the top of the tree full of branches and leaves. The roots dig into the ground when the branches reach out for the sky. Sometimes the roots gracefully stick out of the ground giving strength to the tree when it grows on a hillside. There is a huge variety of trees corresponding of the region where they grow. We all know the heavy and majestic oak tree that grows in temperate climate areas. Of course the pine tree that often grows in the mountains is among the well-known. I particularly love the Mediterranean kind with its flat top and curvy trunk. We also know the birch tree with its silver white bark and of course, the giant sequoia with its impressive size. The branches are the necessary part of a tree. They give him its majesty. Even though obvious, It is important to mention that branches are thicker at the base and thin out as they grow away from the tree. They don’t always grow up. Some go out horizontally and some, mainly on the lower part of the tree, can even go down. The branches and the leaves follow the same pattern: thick base and thinning motion as it grows from the main stem. Some species have a lot of “elbow” shape branches. We must not be afraid, when we draw trees, to duplicate (with minor differences) this type of shape. It appears that the same type of trees tends to repeat the same pattern among its limbs. As an artist, it’s important to make a difference between forests and lonely trees. Even among forests, there is quite a difference between a wild forest where nature follows its ways and a civilized forest where man has trimmed, cut and organized the trees in his own special way. Where trees are planted or kept up by man, the trunks will be straight and strong. In a wild place, trees have more competition and try to overpower each other in a race for light. In the same way, bushes and small plants will tend to be scarce underneath a thick group of trees. Pine forests have their own characteristics: needles

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on the ground, high branches… Some trees are very different depending on the place where they grew or on the elements they had to live with. The wind, the soil or the rain can have a drastic influence on the shape of a tree. Just like with people, time and circumstances play an important role. When drawing a mass of trees, it can be helpful to concentrate at first on the outline more than on the trees themselves. The general light and shade must be the first priority. The details are more precise in the foreground and tend to fade away as we move toward the background. Trees all participate to the beauty of nature in their own way and I have to say that sitting down in a meadow as you are drawing trees of any kind is a true blessing. It reinforces the impression that you are part of this whole wonderful construction and it gives you a feeling of what it is to be a creator.Doppel Banana Boat

How to draw water

Water, Running water, Reflections, River water movements, Ripples and waves, The seaside, Underwater, Rocks


Water always gives an aesthetic touch to a landscape drawing or painting. But, just like the clouds in the sky, water can assume so many different forms and we really need to start by putting our thoughts in order. Remember, water is a fluid: it runs, flows, jumps, gushes and spurts.

Depending on its movement, its own or its reflected colour can change completely. You will doubtless have noticed how a stretch of water which appears dark blue one morning may become green or grey as the day wears on. The influence of the sky is often at work here.buy commercial wrecking ball inflatable

As you know, of course, you cannot rely on the pencil to reproduce colours, so once again you will need to think and observe in terms of values.

Stretches of water. This category will include the sea, lakes, ponds, canals (not strictly speaking running water), puddles and all other forms of static water. In the absence of wind, these waters are nothing more nor less than mirrors forcing you to draw he same subject twice, once the right way up and once “upside down”. That is actually not strictly speaking true since, as you know, the reflection of an object is never entirely identical to the object – or rather, it is the same thing but seen from a different angle.

The module on how to construct reflections in perspectives deals, I hope, with this question fairly clearly so I suggest that we confine ourselves here to the shapes and tones which water can take.

Running water

Streams, rivers, all kinds of waterfall large and small, all natural or artificial spillways fall into the category of running water. Whenever their shape alters their reflections change as well. When you learn to observe a stream, you notice how the water flowing against a rock winds itself in a continuous movement giving the illusion of an unchanging aspect.

We learn that the particles of water making up this border and then a series of wavelets going round an obstacle are in fact in constant movement. And yet we look upon the whole as something more solid, like a sort of vitreous paste left to cool. A photograph which fixes or freezes running water sometimes gives this unreal look to a mass of undulating water.

But in your drawing are you going to emphasise or downplay this special effect?

The photographer’s choice

An accomplished photographer can easily lengthen or reduce the camera’s shutter speed, and when he takes a photo of a waterfall he can choose his exposure time. The result is a different photograph each time. If the exposure time is short the waterfall will be “frozen”, showing thousands of clearly defined drops of water separated from each other like glass marbles rendered elongated by their movement. But in the case of a longer exposure time, several successive positions of each drop will be superimposed on the role of film, thereby creating a plethora of light marks indicating the direction of their movement. The result is a certain blur due to the speed at which the drops move. This result will undoubtedly be more realistic and close to what is perceived by the naked eye.

If you opt for this second approach you will render the effect of blur and movement through lines running parallel to the movement of the water. Don’t overdo this effect or else you run the risk of lapsing into convention. Remember, you are not trying to emulate the cartoon approach where movement is indicated by the lines situated behind the objects. This convention which works very well in comic strip drawings would be entirely out of place in a landscape drawing.

Tonality of reflections in still water In rendering the reflection of an object, you will be at pains to observe the general tonality of what is reflected compared to the original. In many instances, the whole is a little darker and a little less contrasted, but this not always the case. With water, there is sometimes a light mist serving to “bleach” the entire range of tones of the reflected part.

This observation is important for getting you on the right track, but once you have decided whether the reflection is lighter or darker, stick to your guns and be consistent in your range of tones.

How to draw and paint skies

Drawing the sky

The sky figures prominently in most natural landscapes. Apart from compositions of the undergrowth or the edge of the forest, the chances are that much of your drawing will be taken up by the sky.

In short, this part of your drawing is of paramount importance and one might almost say that a well rendered sky, or even a well suggested one, would almost suffice to guarantee success. On the other hand, a sky lacking in conviction would ruin the whole composition!

The sky is in fact characterised by two key elements which you will learn to tell apart:

  • Thickness
  • Movement

A sky is not something painted on a curved surface like a dome. On the contrary, it is a three-dimensional space but this is something we tend to forget since we are more used to moving below it than within it.

But aircraft pilots know very well that the sky consists of different layers and that the elements encountered vary with the altitude.

A successful rendering of a sky is, once again, a question of translating the nature of that sky onto paper. This nature is materialised by the aspect of the air masses inhabiting this enormous space and appearing to us in the form of an attractive, often cloudy costume.

The sky may sometimes assume surprising colours – a boon for the painter and the artist but a headache for those of us wishing to draw. And yet, each of the colours of the sky has its own intensity which you will manage to render very well in your pencil drawing once you have pinned down its exact value.

You have no doubt often been entranced by the spectacular sight of the sky at sunset, full of vivid and sometimes almost surreal red and orange hues. We are so convinced that the sky is naturally blue that when we see it lit up like a fire, we tend not to realise that it is in fact the same sky seen through a thicker layer of atmosphere.

The truth of the matter, of course, is that the sky is a huge reservoir in which the aspect of air masses, heavy with humidity, changes under the impact of condensation and evaporation and at the whim of barometric pressure. These masses are immediately recognisable to us as clouds.

Although there is virtually no end to the variety of shapes, we can thankfully narrow down these clouds into a few general families. Their shapes depend on their height and the temperature of the surrounding air.

The names used by the weathermen to describe these clouds reflect these criteria. They are not perhaps of immediate concern to us as artists but we should at least be on nodding terms with them in order to keep things clear in our heads.

The sky is not like a mountain or a forest, characterised by an imposing but essentially rigid mass. On the contrary it is the product of fast, slow, gentle or violent air movements.