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Tips for Painting Shimmering Light


Here’s a new painting: Wellington Point, Shimmering Light:

Dan Scott, Wellington Point, Shimmering Light, 2021
Dan Scott, Wellington Point, Shimmering Light, 2021

The key idea of this painting is of course the shimmering light on the water. Shimmering light isn’t an easy thing to paint. Too much and it looks garish and sloppy. Too little and it looks weak and timid. Below are some tips for getting it right:

  • It’s all about contrast. The surrounding colors are just as important as the highlights. Set the stage and “earn your highlights” (I remember hearing an artist say this once and it stuck with me, but can’t remember who it was).
  • Don’t limit yourself to titanium white for the highlights. Be open to using light yellows, reds, blues, grays, etc. I did use titanium white in this case as the highlights are intense, but it can be overkill for more subtle subjects.
  • Look at similar paintings for inspiration. There are many different ways to convey the same thing. See what other artists are doing. I drew inspiration from Russian artists Chirun Ilya and Bato Dugarzhapov.
  • Use dabs of thick paint and wipe your brush between strokes. Try to avoid the colors mixing. The highlights need to be crisp.
  • Don’t overdo it. Less is more here.
  • Save the highlights until last. (Unless using watercolors, in which case you might paint from light to dark.)
  • Think before making each stroke. With highlights, mistakes are easy to make and hard to fix.

Happy painting!

Dan Scott

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