PUDDLES of colour
Artists & Illustrators|December 2020
Painting water doesn’t just mean glamorous seascapes. ROB DUDLEY shows how autumnal showers can bring an unlikely scene to life
ROB DUDLEY

I enjoy painting water. And I don’t just mean small moorland streams or wide-flowing rivers. It might seem rather incongruous, but the humble puddle can be a wonderful thing. Quite often when walking and sketching the lanes near to my home in Devon, a once-unpromising subject can be completely transformed after a shower or prolonged spell of rain. Puddles form, unexpected reflections appear, and that unlikely subject suddenly seems to present a wealth of possibilities.

This was the case one autumn afternoon in Suffolk. I’d always felt that the bend in this lane had the bones of a painting in it. The problem was that the road was such a large part of the scene with few redeeming features, so there was a danger its blandness would dominate any potential painting.

However, after a morning’s rain, I was delighted with what I came across. Puddles had completely transformed the scene. The lane was full of captivating patches of blue and gold, the reflections from sky and tree. Even in the shadow cast by the clipped hedge, the recently formed puddles added an unexpected splash of colour in an area that might have appeared flat and lacking interest. It was time for a quick sketch [below left], a photo or two [left] and then back to the studio.

Rob’s materials

•Paper Two Rivers 300gsm paper, pre-stretched

•Brushes Sable, sizes 4,6,8 and 14; rigger, size 2

•Watercolour Quinacridone Gold, French Ultramarine, Winsor Blue (Green Shade) and Cobalt Violet, all Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolour; Green Gold and Burnt Sienna, both Daler-Rowney Artists’ Watercolour; May Green and Translucent Orange, both Schmincke Horadam Aquarell; Transparent Oxide Umber from Rembrandt Watercolour

•Gouache Permanent Scarlet, Permanent Yellow Deep, Permanent Lemon, Cobalt Blue (Hue) and Burnt Sienna, all Turner Acryl

•Pencils 2B graphite pencil; Derwent Watercolour pencil, Burnt Umber 54

•Masking fluid and rubber

•Medium masking brush

1 I began by drawing out the composition using a 2B pencil, basing it on my photos and initial sketch. Once I was happy with it, I reserved some of the highlight areas by applying masking fluid with a medium masking brush. I did this on the smaller puddles, a few ‘leaf’ shapes in the larger puddle, and some branches in the hedgerow, before allowing them all to dry.

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