Kahana Bay- From Photo to Painting

I just finished this 11×14 acrylic painting of Kahana Bay. Recently I’ve become interested in creating dark and light effects in my art work. It was my first attempt painting a single tree with shadows, and calm, shallow water with no waves. The shadow of the tree branches and other shadows are also reflected in the water. Also shown are sky colors and sunlit areas. The middle picture shows notan sketches on the side of my easel and the first color ‘block in’ over a coat of light yellow acrylic paint. The ground/canvas surface was prepared with one coat of gesso which was tinted with a small amount of acrylic yellow ochre. I like covering or priming a white canvas with colored ground for a ‘solid’ looking painting.


After sharing my painting on my favorite art forum, paintbasket.com, my friends offered some suggestions to improve my painting. So with artistic license I lightened the sky and added clouds, darkened the water across the bay and added some sunlit leaves on the tree. This goes to show you that you sometimes can’t depend on ‘copying’ what you see in a photograph! An artist has to personalize his/her art work.

What I didn’t tell them was that I wanted to practice doing tree shadows. As a professional art student I am always finding something that I need to learn how to do, but I had to place the tree in its setting as I saw it. That meant lots more things to practice like fading out the mountain for depth perspective and doing the same for the sky layers of atmosphere, then doing the shadow of the tree in the water, along with other shadows and rocks in the water and so on.

They also didn’t know that I was trying something I saw another artist do. He said to try to paint with a limited palette. So I chose white, burnt umber, ultramarine blue and cadmium yellow. I could mix only those colors for all the darks and lights needed in the painting. Problem is that ultramarine blue is not the right blue for most seascapes. For my next painting, I plan to go back to my usual palette of warm and cool primary colors and yellow ochre and earth colors, burnt sienna and burnt umber. Anyway, I did prove to myself that I can do a painting with 4 tubes of paint, and using just 2 primary colors. Only part missing in the painting were some dried leaves which I needed red to mix oranges! DUH!