Oil Painting Waterfalls

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Landscape paintings can often be enhanced by adding some falling water. This need not be a great cataract in to create some extra interest (as in, for example, my painting of Heyburn Wyke, Yorkshire Dales). On the other hand, an actual waterscape might have a waterfall as a central feature. Waterfalls can be attractive because they introduce a dynamic effect into what might otherwise be a fairly static picture.

Water Or Rocks First?
All artists have their own ways of working and the method you employ depends on which you find seems to work best i.e. develop that approach which best scenes to produce the kind of image you are trying to create.

But if you take a fairly traditional or realism approach to oil painting, you might be using a preponderance of transparent oil paints. In passing, note that all manufacturers of good quality oil pay publish notes on the various characteristics of their oil paints, including whether or not they are transparent, semitransparent or opaque. Hence you can easily take this into account when buying your paints.

So when you come to painting the water gushing over a cliff edge, if you are using opaque paint you will largely cover-up anything beneath the pain, so there is little point in spending time on that area. See for example Falls At Richmond Castle where the fall of water is so great that nothing but white shorts to.

Alternatively, with a less dense fall of water, you might want to leave a sense of, say, the rock surface which can be seen behind the falling water. In this case you might use Transparent White (such as manufactured by Winsor and Newton), building up the impression through a number (perhaps of five or six) thin layers, each applied when the former one has a dry properly. This is called glazing.

This kind of approach is also useful for those parts of the waterfall where much less water is falling, or where there are splashes from where the water in packs rocks below or even ledgers partway down.

Try some experiments before doing a full picture by painting in some dark background rock face, letting it dry and then creating your impression of the falling water.

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