Realism painting of Mt Katahdin overlooking Sandy Stream Pond with rocks and reflections.

Behind the Painting: Sandy Stream Pond

Here is a behind the scenes demo showing how I painted my original watercolor of Sandy Stream Pond in Baxter State Park.

Inspiration:  I chose this photo because I liked the contrast of the pinky early fall colors on the mountain and distant trees with the deep blues of the pond. The sun really catches the light of the rocks and casts strong shadows on the water. This lets you see what lies beneath the surface.

Step 1

Choose a size for the painting and create a grid file.

I decided to paint this as a half sheet watercolor, roughly 14×21.5”.

I added it to my Photoshop grid file to create the white lines over the photo. These will help me draw the painting to scale.

Reference photo with grid overlay for Sandy Stream Pond

Step 2

Draw the painting out in detail.

The idea is for me to paint what I see and not try to make decisions about what rock or limb goes where. The drawing is the most important part of the process.
I keep my lines pretty for the most part. I use fairly strong pressure to help me remember where the darkest areas are. I do this with other key elements like rocks and trees. It’s a type of map for me to follow.

Reference photo with grid overlay for Sandy Stream Pond

Step 3

Reserve any light areas with masking fluid.

I use a small plastic bottle with a nib at the top to apply Winsor & Newton masking fluid.  Let this dry completely (really important).

Step 4

Reserve any light areas with masking fluid.

With the whites protected, I’m ready to begin building up color in very thin washes.
I always paint my skies first, usually in one pass.

Then I start adding initial glazes in the water, taking care not to paint over the exposed areas on the rocks.

painting progress of Sandy Stream water

Tip: If you use non-staining colors like Cobalt blue,  you can lift them out pretty easily.  I always use this in my sky and water.

As I’m painting, I’m keeping track of what’s under the water as well as the reflections on the water.

Step 5

Remove masking fluid.

This is my favorite part of the process!  The finest details really pop out, especially the rocks, leaves, trunks, and highlights on the mountain.

Then I start glazing the rocks and building up color to indicate ripples and submerged rocks.

Reference photo with grid overlay for Sandy Stream Pond

Step 6

Continue thin glazes of colors until it pops.

It took about 15 hours between removing the masking fluid and finishing the painting.  It was many, many layers of very thin washes.

The final painting took about 60 hours to complete. 15 of these were from removing the masking to completion. I used many, many glazes of paint to build up the rich tones in the shallows.

Reference photo with grid overlay for Sandy Stream Pond
©Beth Whitney, Sandy Stream Pond, Baxter State Park, Maine. Watercolor on Paper, 14×21.5 inches unframed.

Step 7

Framing inspiration.

Sandy Stream Pond is ready for its forever home!

The painting is currently unframed, but I think it would look wonderful with a 20×28” double white mat and earthy wood frame. It’s perfect for a fireplace mantel.

Original painting of Sandy Stream Pond

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