Painting of river, reflections, spring trees in Dentdale, Cumbria

"Spring in Dentdale" Dentdale, Cumbria.
Oil. Alistair Butt © 2007.

What first attracted me to this view were the sparking highlights on the water on the River Dee in Dentdale, Cumbria as it flowed over and around the rocks, followed by the contrast between the still water with the reflections and the moving water towards the foreground. The trees and bank added a nice backdrop to the river. The first task was to find a spot that had as much water as possible, i.e. less rocks as the whole river bed was covered by them. When located it was about 6 feet into the river.

This was not the quickest of pictures to paint and many of the smaller stones/pebbles were not painted. The under painting was completed first and was really done to establish the sky and background hills for the over painting (of the trees) to come later, though the mid and dark tones of the water/tree leaf/bank etc were painted at this stage plus indicating the positions of larger stones and main tree branches.

The following day, the far bank and trees, working from background to foreground, were painted along with the reflected section, but slightly darker. A combination of two techniques was used for the trees, either painting the branches first, then the leaves or the other way round. This on top of the under painting, using a range of browns, yellows and greens to create the effect was quite easy. Some sky colour, to create holes in the trees, was added in places. This was followed by the left hand tree and bush.

Next was the water and stones. It could be either paint the stones then the water or water first then the stones. In the end the stones were painted first along with their reflections. Then starting on the foreground area of water the main reflected elements (the tree trunk reflections) were put in, as guides for everything else. The under painting now became the back cloth for a series of paint applications using a combination of colour mixes, some for reflected sky, others for reflected tree to establish the feel of water gently moving over or around the stones. When completed, the highlights that had made this view so attractive were painted.