How to Paint A Riverbed Scene

24th February 2021 Estimated reading time: 5 mins

Charles Evans chose to paint Pin Mill near Ipswich, with the old Thames barges moored up on the resting mud when the tide is out

Pin Mill has a fabulous pub, The Butt and Oyster, which is the building featured here. I approached this painting by cutting down on some of the detail surrounding the boats; I made the image suit me and what I think would make a good painting. Don’t forget: artists are not photographers; we can change details to benefit the end result.

Step 1: Paint the sky

Using my 1½” brush, I pre-wet the entire sky area. I then used well-watered Yellow Ochre in the bottom areas of the sky and Cobalt Blue from the top coming all the way down. I sucked out some paint to create the clouds. I then mixed a touch of Light Red into the Cobalt Blue to give a grey for the base of the clouds.

Step 2: Onto the base washes for the building

For the lighter side, I pre-wet that side of the building and, using my Round brush, simply dropped on a few spots of Yellow Ochre and Light Red and let these merge and soften. For the darker left-hand side, using the same brush, I painted on Cobalt Blue with a tiny touch of Burnt Sienna mixed in, weaker on the sides facing the light. I then did the same for the chimneys.

Step 3: Finish the building

To finish the building, I filled in the windows with a stronger mix of Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna, using a stroke of the paint and leaving the white paper showing through between each stroke. For the base of the building, I made a black from Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna. With a touch more water added, I painted the tops of the bay windows. Using my Rigger brush, I painted some broken squiggly lines in the roof using Burnt Sienna. Once all this was dry, it was time for the shadow using a mix of Cobalt Blue, Alizarin Crimson and Burnt Sienna. With my Round brush, I painted along the top line and down the right hand side of each window, underneath the overhangs of the roof and the shadows cast by the chimneys.

Step 4: Painting the trees

Next, the trees. I used my ¾” brush, but I firstly split the brush, and stippled Yellow Ochre in the top of the trees, followed by a mixture of Hookers Green and Burnt Sienna and a little Cobalt Blue to add depth.

Step 5: Paint the rest of the wall

For the rest of the wall at the base of the building, I used strong Raw Umber to the left hand side and added more water to it for the right hand side, using my Round brush. The people are just a few blobs. Then I painted the track and grasses to the right. All this with my ¾” brush using a mixture of Raw Umber and Yellow Ochre for the muddy bits. For the grasses underneath the trees on the right, I used a mixture of Yellow Ochre and Hookers Green.

Step 6: Paint the distant boats

For the distant boats to the left hand side, using my Round brush, I painted a stroke of Cobalt Blue along the top and Light Red along the bottom. For the cabin, I added a touch of Cobalt Blue to the left hand side. For the wheelhouses, I used touches of Raw Umber and Cobalt Blue mixed with Light Red here and there. I added some shadow to the first boat using a weak mix of Cobalt Blue and Light Red. Then with my ¾” brush, I painted in the muddy bits behind the big boat and foreground jetty. I then removed the masking tape from the masts.

Step 7: Start painting the boat in the foreground

A mix of Hookers Green and Light Red made a simple strip along the top of the big boat. I made a black using Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna for the middle section and a strip of Light Red along the bottom. For the cabin, I used Burnt Sienna mixed with Raw Umber, stronger to one side than the other, then Cobalt Blue mixed with Burnt Sienna for shadowed areas.

Step 8: Add more detail to the foreground boat

The figure and masts were painted with the Rigger brush and a dark mix of Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna. A couple of strokes of Burnt Sienna indicated the anchor at the front. Finally, a strong mixture of Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna added some shadow and grottiness to the hull.

Step 9: Paint the riverbed

With my ¾” brush I laid down washes of Yellow Ochre then Raw Umber and a few touches of Light Red, leaving the paper white in the puddle. Here I repeated some of the boat’s colours from above.

Step 10: Finish off the puddles

I used some very watered Cobalt Blue to stroke across into the puddle and, finally, added shadow with a mix of Cobalt Blue, Alizarin Crimson and Burnt Sienna, taking care to edge this puddle with the same mix.

    Charles’ Top Tips

  1. Use a damp brush to suck out clouds. This gives a softer edge than kitchen roll.
  2. To achieve character in a building, avoid perfect straight lines. Have some sagging in the roof.
  3. Strong blue in the trees will make the building stand out, and create shadows in the trees.

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