Moor to Sea Arts

Painting Rivers



Streams, rivers and estuaries have always been a rich source of inspiration when it comes to my paintings. From unnamed moorland streams, rivers such as the Erme, Dart, or Exe to vast open estuaries have, over the years, provided plenty of painting opportunities. I love ‘em! 

So I was particularly delighted when the excellent Crowood Press commissioned me to write a book about how I paint rivers.Right from day one I decided that they only way for me to approach the project was to share with the reader as openly and freely as I could as much as I know about the painting of rivers in watercolour; no secrets, nothing hidden, making it as accessible as I could. 

It was important to share not just the practical side of how I paint, but to reveal the thinking behind how I paint as well, the ‘hidden ingredients’. I wanted to share my inspirations, materials, working methods, tricks and techniques, with some carefully selected paintings broken down into a sequence of step by steps, becoming a meaningful addition to the watercolour bookshelf. And all this to be crammed in to 156 pages! For example do you know what ‘counterchange’ is and how to use it?


November at Newton and Noss

Counterchange is the term used by artists to describe dark shapes drawn against light shapes or light shapes against dark. It’s a useful device to provide interest and clarity to passages within the painting. Within the watercolour ‘November at Newton and Noss’, counterchange has been used to depict some of the masts on the boats. The masts being painted in a darker tone when set against the lighter mud of the estuary, and lighter in tone when crossing the darker toned trees of the hills. This effect is not confined just to the world of painting, once you are aware of the principles of counterchange you will be aware of how just how often it appears in the natural world. (Painting Rivers From Source to Sea p154).

It’s been a challenge, taking far longer than I thought it would, with other projects being pushed aside in order to enable me to put as much as I could into this book. But I hope that if you, like me, enjoy painting rivers then this book will widen your knowledge and help your development as a painter. Or if you are just beginning to ‘dip’ your toe into watercolour painting  then I can offer you some helpful and constructive insights that will guide you on your way.

But above all I hope you find it both enjoyable and useful.  Happy painting!


An example of a step by step sequence, Chapter 8.

Painting Rivers cover.jpeg

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Painting Rivers From Source to Sea - the Blurb on the Back

by Rob Dudley

Rivers can be enchanting or exciting, but are always absorbing. they provide a myriad of painting opportunities for the artist. Focusing on watercolour - one of the most direct mediums - this practical book explains how to paint a river and capture its life, light, movement, colour and interest. With over 200 images, Rob Dudley shares his methods, techniques and ideas to make this beautiful book a must-have for all landscape and en plein air artists.

  • Explains each stage of painting: inspiration and focus, sketching and information gathering, planning and painting.
  • Advises on how to paint water so that it captures the colour, shape and tone of light and reflections
  • Looks at the various moods and characters of rivers -  from the early streams and cascades through to strong, busy waterways and finally to the tidal estuary, where the river meets the sea
  • Instructs on how to bring a painting to life by including the features of the river - the boats, the wildlife, people and bridges
  • Finished paintings, examples and step-by-step sequences are used throughout to support detailed instruction

Rob Dudley is an experienced artist and well known for his riverscapes. He is inspired by the beauty of the landscape, particularly where light falls on water, and has an abundance of scenes to paint from his home near Dartmoor. He has lived, painted, taught and exhibited in Devon for over twenty years, and runs Moor to Sea Arts with his wife Siân Dudley.