How to Paint a Lake Scene – Tranquility II
In this art lesson, I use acrylic paint to create a beautiful lake scene, which I have titled “Tranquility II”. Using just few colors and some simple techniques, I will show you how to create a stunning landscape that depicts a foggy morning on a lake.
1. Acrylic Paint: https://www.amazon.com/Urban-Artist-Acrylic-Quality-Assorted/dp/B00QX2BSFK
2. 10x20 acrylic-primed stretched cotton canvas: https://www.amazon.com/Paramount-16x20-Stretched-Canvas-Painting/dp/B07RMJCJ91
3. Brushes: https://www.amazon.com/Royal-Soft-Grip-White-Taklon-Assorted/dp/B001ARBGLO
4. Spray Bottle: https://www.amazon.com/Stock%E3%80%91-Bottles-Sprayer-Refillable-Container/dp/B087PPX22D
5. Water Cup
7. Table Easel: https://www.amazon.com/CONDA-Aluminum-Tri-Pod-Display-Rubber/dp/B01K1TUAGS
Things to Prep Before You Paint and How to Create A Drawing for Reference
On your acrylic-primed canvas, start by drawing a line across the canvas, about 3” from the bottom, which will become our distant shoreline. About ½” below that, draw a second line that ends 3” away from the right side of the canvas. Draw one more line ½” below the second line, or 2” from the bottom of the canvas. Make this line the shortest line in length. The middle and bottom lines will be points of reference when we begin drawing the island.
Before you begin painting, be sure to have the three brushes I noted in the supply list ready – small medium and large, along with a spray bottle, a cup of water and some napkins.
1. How to Paint the Sky
Step 1: Turn the canvas on its side
Step 2: On your palette use your brush to place two large scoops of Titanium White paint (about 1 tablespoon) in an open area. Add a dab of the Burnt Siena paint to the Titanium White to produce a darker shade. This will be used for the clouds.
Step 3: Add one more scoop of white to half of the Burnt Sienna/Titanium White color. This will be used for the sky.
Step 4: Begin applying the sky color. Add more paint to your brush after every brushstroke. Apply paint all the way to the horizon line we drew in the beginning that runs the full length of the canvas.
Cherie's Tip: Dip your brush in your water cup for smoother brushstrokes. Blend the sky color well, and while it is still wet, add the cloud color. Dip your brush in the cleaning water before moving over to the cloud color and cover your brush with a generous amount of the sky color.
Step 5: Paint the sky about 2/3 with brushstrokes using the cloud color, starting in the top corner.
Tip: Add a little bit of additional Burnt Siena to the mixture. Blend in the area where the clouds end, so that you don’t see a solid line.
Step 6: Dip your finger in the pure Titanium White and use your finger to create a sun in the top corner of the painting, blending it to achieve a nice area of light in the fog.
2. Creating Trees on the Horizon
Step 1: Return the painting to its horizontal position and use your water to clean the brush.
Step 2: Add one more dab of Burnt Siena to the color we mixed for the clouds, making it about two shades darker than the cloud color. Add a small dab of Black to the mixture to give it a smoky look. Finish by adding in the rest of the White from the sky color.
Step 3: Turn the painting on its side again.
Step 4: Paint a thick line of color across the second line we drew at the beginning of the exercise, pulling your strokes all the way to the end of that second line. End it on a nice point.
Step 5: Add height to the top end of the island, not quite coming up to the sun but close. Bring your brushstrokes down on an angle, so that the resulting shape of the land resembles a slice of pizza.
Step 6: When you are finished creating the land’s shape, rinse your large brush in the cup of water and return the painting to its horizontal position.
Step 7: Begin using your medium angled brush. Rinse it in the water, and then use your land color to create some treetops on the top edge of the land mass, making them varying heights and leaving space between the last few treetops on the edge.
Cherie’s Tip: Because the canvas is still wet, you can achieve a great blending affect which makes the color of the trees a little lighter than the land, even though you’re actually using the same paint color. Do not create too much texture as the trees and land are in the fog.
Step 8: Dip your large brush in the water and create horizontal strokes across the top of the trees to blend it further.
Step 9: Rinse your large brush again when you are finished. Smooth your sun out, making it bright.
Step 10: Rinse your medium brush and add one more scoop of White to your tree color. making a color that is darker than your sky, but lighter than your trees.
Step 11: Add a small distant shoreline along the rest of your horizon (the top tine that we drew at the beginning).
3. Painting the Lake
Step 1: Turn the painting on its opposite side so that the sky and sun are on the left and the water is on the right.
Step 2: Add one more scoop of Titanium White to the last color you created.
Cherie’s Tip: This will be used to create the water under the distant shoreline you just painted.
Step 3: Create “waves” using the vertical brushstrokes across the lake.
Step 4: Rinse your medium brush and begin using your small brush. Wet the small brush and blend it into the last paint color.
Step 5: Create small watered-down brushstrokes starting at the point of the island and moving downwards across the shoreline, blending the shoreline as it would appear through the fog.
Step 6: Add a dab of black and more water to the last color, creating a runny mixture, which we will use to make waves.
Step 7: Add tiny little brushstrokes far enough away from the distant shoreline to look realistic.
Cherie’s Tip: Take your time gently touching and pulling with your small brush. If you feel the need to tone any of your lines down, add white to your brush. As you paint closer to the far right of the painting, the wave line should be longer and thicker, since they will be closer to the viewer – helping us to achieve the right perspective. The waves in the back, closer to the horizon should be shorter and tighter because they are farther away.
Step 8: To create highlights on some of the waves at the top of the painting, rinse your small brush and dip it in pure Titanium White. Add more paint to your brush after every third brushstroke.
4. Painting the Island and Its Trees
Step 1: Switch to the medium brush
Step 2: Mix a scoop of Burnt Siena and a scoop of Mars Black into the last color on the palette, creating a Charcoal color.
Step 3: Follow the shortest line, closest to the bottom, and paint a line downwards.
Step 4: Add paint to the top of that line, widening it and making the shape of the island.
Step 5: Return the canvas to its horizontal position. With the small brush, paint three singular trees on the island using the same color, making the trees varying heights.
Step 6: Use your spray bottle to spray the Charcoal paint that’s on your palette before adding more Burnt Siena to it.
Step 7: Continuing to use your small brush, add a small dab of Sap Green to the color.
Step 8: When you are ready, begin from the top of each tree and add branches to them.
Cherie’s Tip: Always remember that towards the top of a tree the branches reach upwards, but as you go further down the tree, the weight of the branches grow and they begin to point downwards. Have fun with this – it does not have to be perfect, and in fact, it looks better when it’s not!
If it’s easier for you, paint the general branch lines like I do in the video, and fill it in afterwards to give the branches shape and texture. Use the side of your small brush to create the texture.
Step 9: Add more Mars Black into the paint mixture to add shadows to the island and the trees. Use the same color to add a few bits of texture to the tips of the island.
Step 10: Rinse your small brush and use the same color to add texture to the smaller two trees on the island. Make sure each tree is slightly unique to keep it realistic.
Step 11: Clean your brush again and add another scoop of White to the pallet. Use this color to add highlights to the edges of the island where water would be hitting the rocks.
Step 12: Dip your brush in the water and add that watery color to your palette mixture.
Step 13: Turn your canvas vertically again.
Step 14: Paint a thin line along the bottom of the rocks to soften the edge.
Step 15: Use the same color on top of the water to create the reflection of the trees.
Cherie’s Tip: You only need to create a few lines to suggest the reflection. Always remember that if you don’t like something you’ve done, you can use a lighter color to blend it out.
5. Highlighting the Trees with Paint
Step 1: Return the canvas to its horizontal position.
Step 2: Add a scoop of Sap Green and two scoops of Yellow Ochre to your palette mixture to create a golden green color.
Cherie’s Tip: For this painting we don’t want the green to be too bright – keep the color looking natural.
Step 3: Using the small brush, apply this new golden green color to the tops of some of the branches on the large tree to give them a glow.
Cherie’s Tip: You can use this color to add some additional texture to the tree if you’d like. If any areas seem too dark, using this color will help break that up a bit. However, be sure to keep the golden color at the top of the tree, as we want the lower areas to remain dark since they are in the shadows.
Step 4: Apply small hits of the same color to the side of each of the other two trees. Keep it subtle.
Step 5: Use the same color to add the illusion of grass to the areas at the base of the trees. If you feel you’ve used the light color too much, you can always cover it with a dark color and blend it in.
Thank You for Learning to Paint with Me
I really enjoyed showing you how to create this painting. It has a limited color palette, which I love. It makes mixing the colors simple, and it helps to achieve a peaceful feeling, which is why I named this painting “Tranquility II”.
Enjoy, happy painting and stay safe!