When we first visited Oman in 2007 we were fortunate to go on a day trip to the coastal town Sur, famous for its dhow building. I recall doing a couple of sketchbook watercolours in the heat of the day, the high sun catching the top of the clouds.
These studies of Arabian Dhows became the inspiration for a number of studio paintings including one on gold leaf, and a number of watercolours which are available as a limited edition prints from alanreed.com.
I’ve recently painted a 14” x 10” watercolour capturing these beautifully shaped sailing vessels lying out of water which I’ve filmed for a new Painting Video which you can watch on Youtube.
For your interest, here is the script for the voice over for the video to save having to take notes.
First step is to get my usual wash down of Cadmium lemon and Cadmium Yellow which is used to harmonise all the other colours and to take away the stark white of the paper. I’ve wet some of the paper with clean water so that the first wash spreads easily, avoiding hard edges. This initial wash always seems to look wrong to begin with but remember, it always dries lighter.
I forgot to film the second wash of Rose Madder, but again, I wet the paper in places allowing some of the yellow to show through. As you can see, the Rose Madder doesn’t cover the whole sheet.
Once dry, another application of clean water and it’s time to add Manganese Blue for the sky. This time the brush marks are even more carefully considered. I want to re-create the effect of the sun bursting through the clouds from the top right hand side corner. The brush marks echo the direction that the rays of sunlight are coming from. I’ve added a touch of purple to the blue to bring a sense of depth to the lower foreground cloud.
Using a smaller brush it’s time to paint the areas of sky being reflected on the sand that is still wet from the receding tide. The brush marks I’m making are more horizontal and I’m working wet on dry. At times I’m just catching the surface of the paper to replicate the patterns in the sand. As with the sky, I’m dropping in the occasional purple for variation. You can also see that I’m leaving the first wash of yellow to come through in places to suggest the sunlight sparkling on the surface of the water.
A subtle mix of purple and Raw Sienna is used to paint in the areas of wet sand. I’m careful not to overload the brush, almost dabbing it on the surface of the paper.
I’m using this colour, not just for the wet sand but also for the hull of the dhow that is in shadow. Taking the shadow area back into the sand, always leaving parts of reflected blue and sparkle to shine through. Also a few very small details to indicate the ripples of wet sand. Where the shadow is darkest, I’m adding a slightly more intense purple to deepen the shadow.
The distant dhow has a base of Manganese blue to suggest a cool shadow, intensifying it with a darker blue for the keel.
A much finer brush is required to paint the fine wooden details that are another distinctive feature of the dhows. You need to be very careful at this point because it’s difficult to lift out any mistakes against such a light background.
It shouldn’t be necessary to say that this 12 minute video does not represent the entire time it took to do this painting. I’m just showing the main areas of interest.
I’ve mixed a lovely rusty red for the sides of the dhows. Again, I’m being very precise as to where I’m adding the colour, varying the intensity of the colour.
The same rusty red is used “wet on wet” for the distant dhow.
A darker purple and the thin brush is used again for these other detailed areas which take a bit of time to work out. I’m keeping the brush marks simple, not too niggley or fiddly but still varying the tonal values of the linear brush marks for interest.
I’ve decided that I’d like the hull slightly lighter so I’m painting some clean water on to the hull then just dabbing the water with some tissue to lift off the colour.
This dark shadow area almost looks black. It’s actually a mix of purple, Paynes Grey and perhaps a touch of Lamp Black. Carefully defining the gentle curve of the hull then contrasting that mark with some freer more expressive brush marks to suggest the more uneven ground where there are some rocks.
The left hand side of the hull needs to go darker so I’m running a slightly lighter version the same shadow colour over the rusty red.
On this close up you can see many other details that I’ve added like the anchors and rocks.
So there you have it. Arabian Dhows resting at low tide at the coastal town of Sur in Oman.