A simple composition like this titled “Dhow, Reflections” is actually one of the most difficult subjects to paint successfully in watercolour. Over the last five years I’ve made many sketchbook studies of Arabian dhows whilst painting on location in the Gulf and find them a delight to paint. This particular painting was inspired by a dhow I saw coming in to harbour towards the end of the day. I decided to do a large studio watercolour 28″ x 20″ to capture the warm light and the solitary vessel.
The challenge is achieving the the graduation of the background colours. When you blend blue into yellow, it’s very easy to get it wrong and create a dirty green colour, so patience is the key. I drew out the basic shape of the dhow and masked off the white areas using masking fluid before tackling the background.
First I laid a wash of clean water over the entire sheet of hand-made watercolour paper. Whilst it was still wet, I ran in a wash of Cadmium Lemon about a third of the way from the top, fading it out slightly as it went towards the bottom of the paper. About two hours later when it was dry, I repeated the process with another wash of clean water, however, this time I laid a wash of Rose Madder about halfway down the paper and faded it out about a third of the way from the bottom.
Another two hours later and I applied another wash of clean water over the whole sheet, this time running in some French Ultramarine and Manganese Blue in the top third of the painting, making sure it faded out quickly as it hit the yellow. I ran a touch more of the blue into the bottom third to create a reflection of the sky. By painting the background in a series of washes, you create a depth and richness to the colours which would not be achieved if one tried to do it in one wash.
Once it was all dry, I rubbed out the masking fluid and began painting the dhow and it’s reflections. The result is a very restful painting that one can see at my Studio and Gallery in Ponteland.