Rocky Falls: Lights and Shadows

I began my painting of Rocky Falls shortly before Valentine’s Day, nearly two months ago. Since then, I’ve worked slowly — and methodically — to take the painting from a few sketchy scribbles on paper to a nearly-finished work. Step by step, you’ve seen the painting change.

Today I’m sharing the “lights and shadows” stage of the process. Here, following the basic color block-in, I began addressing areas of light and dark — specifically on the rocks.

Here, it’s still in a fairly rough form. You can see the yellow acrylic toning showing through, but hopefully you can also begin to get a sense of where the sunlight is falling — on both the rocks and the water. The images below show a “before” and “after” look at the painting during this stage.

NOTE: It appears that the lighting was a bit different when I took each photograph, but I think you can see how the water and the rocky areas are taking on more three-dimensional form now.

For me, this was one of the most important parts of the painting process. Now, I can begin to see the various elements more distinctly. I could see how the rocks were taking shape. I could get a better feeling for where and how the water would be “spilling over” in the final painting.

At this point, I enjoyed sitting back and looking at the painting from a slight distance. Did anything immediately “jump out” at me? Was anything about the composition a bit off? Yes, actually, there were a couple little things that bothered me.

  • I wasn’t yet happy with the lay-out of the rocks on the left. I made notes to “tweak” that area more as I finished the painting.
  • In doing my usual “impasto” style of brushwork, I’d ended up with an unsightly “glob” of paint in the wooded area — too much to be called “impasto”. It was just a blob of green that didn’t need to be there. I carefully used a palette knife to scrape off the excess paint, then carefully touched up the area beneath it.  If you look closely at the large image in this post, you can easily see the glob of paint there.

As I studied the painting on the easel, I looked, too, for the rhythm and movement I wanted for this painting. I wanted to understand for myself how the water flowed, how it changed directions, how it splashed into the pool below.

So, the painting remained at this stage for a time. All the while I was “absorbing” the energies of this painting. That’s the only way I know how to put it. I was taking it all in, letting it settle deep into my thoughts and feelings, all in hopes that I could then convey those emotions as I moved on to the final stages of the painting.

You’ll be seeing the next stage in the process in an upcoming post. It’s nearly complete now, and I’m looking forward to showing it off!



    1. Thanks. I’m really liking how it’s turned out so far. I’ll be posting the “almost-finished” version soon. After that… just a little tweaking, maybe, and I’ll be done.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. i really do like this one! One of my favorite Plein air things to paint is rocks in the water..whether it’s a stream , or waterfall, even a lake. there’s just something about how the sunlight plays on the water and rocks at various times of the day! Great work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks… it’s almost finished. You’ll be seeing it again in an upcoming post. I’m really happy with the way it’s turned out, so I can’t wait to show it off!

      Liked by 1 person

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