Drawing Reflections in Water With Colored Pencils - Learn How Your Viewpoint Matters

Drawing reflections in calm water may seem like a breeze at first glance. But let's not be fooled by the surface-level simplicity.

When we peer into a reflection, our eyes perceive a world that lies beneath the water's surface. It's a mirrored image that exists in perfect symmetry with the reality above. But our eyes can deceive us, showing us only parts of the picture, while other elements are hidden from view.

The object in the scene may lean ever so slightly, and we, the viewers, stand above the water's level, gazing down at a skewed perspective. Additionally, the reflections are often distorted by the water's surface. It's like looking at the world through a funhouse mirror, where some elements are stretched or cut off entirely.

Before you being drawing water, take a closer look at the world around you, and you might be surprised at what you see, or rather what you don't see.

Let's explore some water reflection photography

So, how do we make sense of it all? Let's delve further and simplify the principles by looking at some photos. 

Let's transport ourselves to the serene Loire Region of France.

  • Take a moment to study the reflections. The right hand building is partially concealed by the tree, yet its left side is visible in the water.
  • As you look toward the low mill shed, it appears to be standing further back from the road bridge, making only a hint of its rooftop visible in the reflection.
  • You may also notice that the trees in the distance are absent from the water's reflection.
  • And finally, the mill cottage reveals only its top floor to us, with the front door remaining out of sight.

Look at the photo of the harbour at Honfleur.

  • Notice how the buildings on the waterfront shrink in size when you look into the water, due to them standing back from the harbour wall.
  • The distant hill that towers behind the harbour fades away, as if it never existed.
  • Observe how the masts of the boats appear at an angle, bending to the whims of the reflection.

Reflections never quite capture the essence of the original, and the loss of definition and overall darkness is a testament to this. Lighter objects appear darker, and darker objects appear lighter. The reflection is a subtle, imperfect copy of reality, devoid of the extreme lights and darks that define our world.

The way we perceive things can be deceiving, as shown in ‘Tamar Moorings’. Even though the sunlight illuminates every plank, the reflection appears darker.

It's interesting to note that the reflection shows the exterior of the boat from an underwater perspective, while the direct view displays the interior. When it comes to painting reflections in water, it's essential to depict what you see, not what you assume.

In this photo of a gull. Notice how the reflection reveals a new perspective, allowing us to see the underside of the bird. The sunlight bouncing off the water creates a striking contrast, casting a golden glow on the bird's underside.

It's amazing how a simple reflection can offer a fresh and unexpected view..

Take a moment to examine this photograph of the old port at Pont Aven in Southern Brittany. Notice the boats and their reflections, nothing out of the ordinary at first glance.

However, observe the second picture, where the image has been flipped upside down. Suddenly, what was once ordinary is now transformed into a new perspective. This challenges our perception and encourages us to see things from a different angle. 

The scene seems to ripple and waver, like the view from beneath the surface of a still lake.

The vessels dotting the water's surface hover above you, as if suspended in mid-air. Yet this curious effect arises not from some optical illusion, but rather from the simple fact that what you see reflected is not the same as what you see directly. Your perspective has shifted, and with it, the entire world seems to rearrange itself.

There are exceptions, however

The closer our eye to the water level, the more the scene above and below become one, blurring distinctions.

But the higher we get, the greater the divide, until the reflected world is but a mere fragment of reality. Even the grandest of mountains fade away, leaving only the sky.

And yet, amidst this dance of perception, the rippled water surface reminds us of the complexity and beauty of our world, challenging us to see beyond the surface and into the depths. If only we take the time to look.

As we dive deeper, we'll explore the intricate interplay between a boat and the water that surrounds it. 

Join us on our journey as we unravel this visual spectacle on our page dedicated solely to drawing a boat

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