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When I first saw the photo of taken by Mal Raynor of a houseboat on an English river, I knew I had to try to paint it. I loved the way that it caught the sense of peace and quiet of a lazy afternoon sail, maybe after a pint and a ploughman's in the local.


Step 1 as usual was to quickly sketch the layout and then lightly block in the larger areas like the sky and reflection of the building. I should probably have started to add the building colour here as well, don't really know why I didn't.Houseboat 1Houseboat 1


Step 2 - I used a soft mixing white on the sky so that it would stay wet, that will allow me to work the clouds in over the next couple of days. Time to start adding a bit of colour to the roofs.

Houseboat 2Houseboat 2


Step 3 - Spent another hour or so this afternoon working away on the roof and also the building walls. The clouds are still wet so no rush to do any more to them. I want to use a wet on wet technique when I start to add some trees and bushes in the middle ground and that will be much easier if the sky is still workable.

Houseboat 3Houseboat 3


Step 4 - Time to put some windows on the building. I love putting the small details into my paintings, but getting the right amount of detail in the windows here is a pain. Too much dark and they look like bars on prison windows, too much light and they just look like blobs. Should I paint black on white or white on black? I prefer light over dark since I'm working in oils.

Riverboat 5Riverboat 5


Step 5 - Time to do something with the background. I find that I'm ok if' it's just one or maybe two trees, but when it gets to more than that I start to tremble. A full blown forest is a definite cause for hyperventilation.  But there was no way around it, this painting needed greenery, and lots of it. I also added a bit more colour in the reflections. Reflections are always slightly darker than the object being reflected so when I say I added more colour, what I mean is I cleaned off my brush by dragging down the canvas.River Boat 5River Boat 5

Step 6 - I think I managed to leave the trees alone early enough last night that I didn't turn them to mud. Now that they'd dried I was able to add a few highlights and darken some other areas to try to balance them out a bit. I added a few details on the bank of the river, in front of the building and also the small bridge on the right hand side, which will effectively separate the middle ground from the background. Hopefully it will lead the eye in towards the boat rather than being a barrier and killing the composition, I guess time will tell.

After about 2 weeks of working on this thing, I think I'm  finally, almost, ready to put some paint on the boat. Funny thing about the 'boat', I asked on Facebook what the correct name for it is. I started out calling it a river boat, but since then I've been told it's a narrow boat, a canal boat, a house boat, or a barge. Maybe it's a geographical thing, but if anyone knows definitively then feel free to let me know in the comments below.

River boat 6River boat 6


Step 7 - I decided to go back and add a bit of colour to the barge. It only took 20 minutes but now I can leave it overnight to dry and I can start off tomorrow with adding some details to it.

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Step 8 - I wanted to add another layer to the barge tonight and then got a bit carried away and ended up adding a fair bit of the reflection on the river and then I went ahead and did the rough in of the grassy bank. Looking at the bank now, I may change it up a bit... I like the towpath idea but I think it goes too high up the side of the painting so I think will be getting a trim tomorrow once it's dry. That's the great thing about oils, you can just keep painting over and over until you get it right.

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And... we're done.  I did change the greenery a fair bit and made more of  a path among the daffodils. The only other things that had to be done were the reflections. I deliberately didn't spend too long on those so as to try and retain some freshness, it's easy to turn reflections to mud. Hope you like it. Incidentally, the photographer of the reference photo, Mal Rayner informs me that it's a Narrow Boat - so that's what I'm going with, anyway, the brushes are cleaned and the canvas is signed, so that's that.

River Boat FinishedRiver Boat Finished