Have you ever tried to create reflective windows in your art? I struggled with that for a long time; I assumed it was one of those skills I’d only get one day as a REAL artist (do we ever reach that pinnacle!?). But years ago I stumbled onto an accidental discovery: I was making it far too hard on myself.
The real secret is the same as in just about all art: letting go. Forget what you THINK it should look like – find a reflection and see what it DOES look like! Sometimes it’s a blobby jumble. Only occasionally will it look like a real “thing” – although that is something that can simplify it for you IF the reference you are looking at is simple and has a clear, distinct image. Watch the video and read on for my reflections on reflections.
Tutorial: Draw and paint reflective windows – 4 mediums and a freebie!
In this video you’ll get a preview of the newest class – and a freebie to download and color up! There’s another class coming Saturday – stay tuned to the end to get a peek at that too!
Watch the video below and scroll to the end to leave comments or questions — or click HERE to watch it on YouTube and leave comments over there. I read both dutifully!
Different reflections in every window
One of the freeing things to remember with reflections – they can change drastically from one window to the next. A tree trunk in the pane to the left of 223 is probably the same tree as the window above it – but they don’t align. What’s going on? There may be more technical explanations for this but – I have to suspect that the building is not *perfect.* If a window pane is not exactly in the same plane as another window, it’ll never reflect in the same way – it has a different “view” of the object being reflected, even if by a half a degree. There are also things like the type of glass, settling of the building – so many factors. Look at windows next time you’re out and see if you notice this.
When collecting references for starter projects, look for simple shapes in the reflections. Here there are buildings and a street lamp (the lamp looks wonky but there ya go!) – and that’s a lot easier to render. Also notice though that there are areas of transparency where you see things INSIDE the window like a piece of furniture and blinds up at the top…. and cast shadows ON the window as well! When trying to take your own reference images, walk around and check different angles to see what that does to your view of the reflection.
Draw the shapes you see
The car is reflected in this window (along with some transparency into the shop) – and while I find cars very hard to render well, reflections of them are much easier. Squint at it to look at the SHAPES you see. When it’s all mushy tone-on-tone like this is, it doesn’t take much of a suggestion – can you create a roofline and window that’s believable? Is a street lamp’s reflection a matter of a light blob on one end with a line coming down from it? Look for the elements that are the essence of the shape and pay attention to that – and add layers of color that’ll blend everything so it has that suggestion of a presence.
In the class, watercolor is the medium – and that’s because I find the epic cast shadows much easier in watercolor. There’s no expectation students will include them though, because *scary* right? Anyway – the windows in watercolor can be mostly mush, then toss in a curtain opening and voilá you’ve got a realistic looking window!
The process for water based markers is very very similar to watercolor, just with a little application change. Put a tiny amount directly on the paper and move it around with a brush and water, but if your markers dont blend out nicely, you might want to keep light washes to mix from a palette.Then add curtain or blind openings with the full marker once everything is dry.
Copic marker + freebie
The Art Diner (“Sketch ‘n Eat”) is available for FREE! You can try out pencil and markers with this printable and see if the tiny detail is too much for you or if it’s doable. When you add this to your account you get both the version at the size I drew it as well as slightly shrunk down – the details get even smaller in that case. Tap here for the printable.
Market Street Sketches Class
The new class is available and OH how fun! It’s taught with Microns and watercolor, but if you want to give it a try with another medium rock on! . Tap here for the class.
Closing thoughts and question
- Stonehenge sketchbook
- Watercolor marker:
- Colored Pencil: Polychromos Pencils – Polychromos Hex Chart
- Alcohol marker: Copic Markers – Copic Hex Chart