Creating Translucence with Layered Patterns

posted in: Blog, Classes, Composition, Painting | 13

Nature offers us myriad harmonized and ordered patterns.  Courtesy of their DNA plants leaf in repeated patterns (example 1). Crystals reconstruct their patterns as they grow. The arrangement of fish scales vary subtly across their repeated lines. You know I could go on like this for pages but, the point is made.

Example 1. Fibonacci number series found in a cauliflower and a rose.

In addition to nature’s rhythmic rhyming of forms our brain searches for recognizable patterns and finds them by accident or intention. We look for connections; we look for patterns; we look for causation. And, when none are present we superimpose an order, connections, patterns, causation. In the absence of evidence we manufacture it to support our biased perceived order, to support our conclusions about what we are seeing, hearing, touching or smelling. We organize chaos into meaning. We delight in discovering patterns in a field of chaos because that discovery creates meaning, order, and  purpose.

As I wander along stream beds, or waves moving upon a shore I find patterns. I find coherent designs. I reorganize my sensations are converted into meaningful unified designs glued together with interlocking and overlapping patterns. When John Singer Sargent walks along the shore in 1878 (example2).  He arranges an ordered pattern for the clouds, for the groups of people, for the blue reflecting puddles of wet sand. We sense this order but, it is not too heavy handed to give a feeling of unnaturally superimposed order.

Example 2. John Singer Sargent, “Gathering Oysters at Cancale” oil on canvas.

And when I look into the shallows of a stony stream bed (example 3) I find arrangements of reflected light on submerged rocks. I find arrangements of sparkling reflections, and arrangements of rippling water patterns. I willfully re-arrange these components into a unified design pattern. That pattern will have echoes with past art historical patterns. It should offer coherence through flawed symmetries. It should feel unified but, not  an unnatural or forced.  Overt repetitions arouse suspicion and do not enhance the feeling of natural discovery.

Example 3. Step one, “Finding Translucence”, building a unified arrangement of forms and juxtapositions of complementary color areas.

Example 4. Step two, “Finding Translucence”, individuating and clustering forms.

Example 5. Step three, “Finding Translucence” an oil on brushed silver Dibond, 24×36”. This is the painting’s current state with multiple layers of overlapping patterns  heightening the feeling of movement and translucence.

In the following examples the wave patterns are not as minute as in the previous example.  The point of view has shifted from an aerial point of view to a more horizontal view across the subject.  The distance and the patterned layers must undergo foreshortening. The sea foam can fracture into differently scaled communities of pattern. The complementary colors can fortify a pattern. They bring the golden foreground closer to us and carry the blue horizon away from us.

Example 6. Step one of “Beach Translucence” where we see the two contrasting color areas clearly separated in the beginning.

Example 7. Step two of “Beach Translucence” where the foreground and background territories are more clearly separated in preparation for their respective pattern differences.

Example 8.Step three of “Beach Translucence” an oil on brushed silver Dibond, 24×36. Now the floating wafting patterns of the sea foam can be seen to emerge, separate and follow subtle surface contour variations and finally fracture into smaller shapes as they dissolve.

I invite you to join me in September for more online Zoom classes. Again, I present a demonstration followed by critiques of individual artist’s works. These artists’ works may be anything you wish me to see and offer my suggestions. Registration is at  We have improved our technology using two separate HIgh def cameras  for exceptional close-ups of work in process, more sophisticated digital drawing tools in the critiques, and recordings of the programs for your later review with pausing and still shots.






13 Responses

  1. Julie Kostes

    Beautiful images. I cannot quite stop viewing the Beach Translucence; as always, you leave me in a sense of awe. Thank you David.

    • dd_admin

      Hi Julie,
      thank you for your response to my work. I have continued to work on that painting. David

  2. Mani Troutman

    Thank you for this article , that was just on time for me , I am struggling with translucent pattern over the any water scene. I think I will join to your class.

    • dd_admin

      Mani, thank you for your comments. I would be happy to have you join me in class. I will be addressing the issue of watery translucence in class.

  3. Andrea

    love your water running over the sand did you work it out in a drawing before you painted it, or was it done at the time of the painting. And can this be done in water color by adding the white on top. and what type of paint would you use for that white, can you use watercolor or do you need something else.

    How much are your classes?

    • dd_admin

      HI Andrea,
      You can do this in watercolor. you won’t necessarily need to add white on top if you prepare your paper you will be able to remove colors to reach back to the white underneath as Turner, Constable, Homer and Wyeth all did. if you wish to add opaque white on top that is possible too but retrieving the white of the paper from underneath is more effective. By the way, the zoom class prices are listed here at this website. Return to the home page and check the square offering online classes. Thank you. David

  4. Katie piazza

    I’m going to try to sign up for your zoom classes I miss the classes and all the people hopefully we’ll be back to normal soon. Miss you and your great demos! Katie

  5. Denise Petit

    Yes, beautiful translucence! I would love to see more of that in class! Beautiful!
    Looking forward to Tuesday!

  6. Dianne

    Your process is so intriguing and explanations thought provoking. I just discovered you on YouTube. Will you have Zoom classes in October?

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