How should I paint an underwater castle?
Rachel Day, England
A castle that’s underwater is much like a castle on land. The main difference will be in the depiction of the environment and atmosphere, because the structure is submerged.
Normally, if you’re underwater you’ll notice that the water absorbs a good amount of daylight. There’ll also be floating particles, such as sand or mud, that creates a colour cast on the immediate surroundings, and objects that are all but obscured and blend into the background because of the reduced clarity of the water and lower light levels. With a few tweaks, a painting of a murky, foggy afternoon can resemble an underwater setting. However, bear in mind that everything depends on the type of water you want to depict.
My approach for this article is to first paint a castle with an appropriate light source, possibly from the sun above the water, but perhaps from somewhere underwater. Next, I add the desired amount of weathering to the castle, caused by erosion, seaweed growing on the walls, and so on. Then I apply a unifying colour to the image: this could be blue, but I also consider green or brown. Finally, I paint over the distant parts of the castle to blend them into the background. I’m happy to lose detail, or make some parts of the castle almost exactly like the background.
Don’t let the underwater setting distract you from tackling the usual composition factors, such as shape, perspective, illumination and texture. The watery environment is essentially a matter of colour and contrast. Paint the stone castle as usual, then add your unifying water colour. If you paint the castle with blue hues from the start, it may end up looking monochromatic.