Lighthouse from Hell

I took this photo of the lighthouse at Killarney, Ontario, two summers ago.  And I’ve just gotten around to painting it.

Not an easy subject, I found.    First of all, the sky is tricky.   It’s quite granulated.

In watercolors, though, you can’t paint each and every cloud fluff, or it will look like crap.

And the last thing I wanted to do was spend hours drawing the lighthouse, and then ruin it all by screwing up the sky. So I did a few practice runs first.

Attempt #1. Meh.   Too finicky.   Too many patches, the clouds didn’t flow.

Attempt #2. Somewhat better.   By using wet-on-wet, I softened the edges of the clouds.

Next, was to draw the lighthouse itself.

It helped to blow up the photo, and draw grid squares to get the proportions right.   I could have really gone nuts, and broken this down into carefully measured grids.    But I chose not to…I wanted to get the proportions down by eye.   More drawing, and less technical drafting.

Besides, I had forgotten to bring my ruler, and was too lazy to ask to borrow one at Art Class.    I just used the edge of my metal pencil-box to make the straight lines.

I drew it on sketch paper first, so as to not ruin the watercolor paper by erasing and drawing on it, over and over.

Again, this was NOT an easy subject.  It’s bascially small 8-sided object on top of a larger tapered 4-sided object.  Drawn in perpective, no less.

At this point, I was getting damned tired of looking at this @#%$%  lighthouse.   And I hadn’t even started to paint yet.


The next and final step was to re-trace the ENTIRE drawing again, with carbon paper underneath, to transfer it onto the watercolor paper itself.    THEN….I started to mix colors.


When all was said and done, here’s how the final product turned out:

The photo was too dark on the bottom.  So I had to use my imagination and fiddle around.   I lightened up the rocks, and deliberately repeated some of the reds and blues of the sky and lighthouse.  But just a hint.

I also didnt’ bother with the antenna and anemometer on top.   They didn’t add to the painting, and would have must messed things up.


This painting’s all right.   Though it could be better.

For one thing, I did a major boo-boo.

Can you spot what it is?

Hint: Look when you compare the angles of the railing from the photo to my drawing.

I got the perspective ALL wrong.

And of course, I only realized that after investing 5 hours into the painting, when it was 80% done.

And this being watercolor, there wasn’t a damned thing I could do to fix it.



But the instructor didnt’ think it was too bad.    My saving grace was that I was consistent in the way I got the perspective wrong.

The building isn’t too lop-sided, so it looks like I kinda got away with it here.

This is what artists call a “Fortunate Accident”.


Or….I could say that I had I MEANT to do that…after all, this isn’t a photograph…it’s my “impression” of the scene.

Yeah…that’s it.   That sounds about right.

I MEANT to do that.


Oh well.  Chalk this up to being a “learning experience”.

And let us never speak of this wretched lighthouse again.

I’m done with them.


Though I might try one again…in about 5-10  years.

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24 Comments on “Lighthouse from Hell”

  1. Eyeteaguy Says:

    Keep trying.

    You must, because I find your posts about painting very trying.


  2. Friar Says:



    He’s BAAAA-ACK!

    With Firsties, no less.

    (I was getting worried, there, for a while).

  3. Sheila Says:

    I like the railing tilted toward the front. It reminds me of the guys that tilt there hats forward on there heads; men on missions with places to go. Yours is a lighthouse with a mission.

  4. Amy Says:

    I think it works. You TOTALLY meant to do that. 🙂

  5. Tracy Says:

    That is an awesome lighthouse, except I would have left in the dragon.

  6. XUP Says:

    I thought the boo-boo was going to be that you forgot about the dragon. Too bad it’s not the olden days when someone like you could hook up with a rich old lady to be your patron who would give you tons of money, no strings attached, so that you could spend all your time painting. And she got to go around telling everyone that she was someone’s patron and got first dibs at buying your work. Those were the days, eh? But then you’d probably be dead by now since people didn’t live much past 40.

  7. Friar Says:

    That’s a very unique way of looking at it! I never thought of that before!

    I bet you if I kept my mouth shut, 9 out of 10 people wouldn’t have noticed.

    (Except my family..they’d pick up mistakes like this in a heartbeat!)

    It WAS tempting, I tell you. (Actually, it’s still not too late to add him!)

    Yeah…too bad I wasnt’ born in 1664, instead of 1964. I’d have been the smartest, and most educated man within the 500 miles.

    As opposed to today, where I’m just another engineer, among thousands, who dabbles in painting.

    But just as well…with all my smart-ass comments, I’d probalby have been burned as a witch back then.

  8. Davina Says:

    Your perspective has always been a bit off 😉

    I say put the Dragon in to represent your Chinese astrological birth sign… ppft.

    Nice work Friar. I enjoyed the walk-through of your creative process. This piece could be worth something someday. Just like how certain postage stamps that have flaws are worth more than the average stamps.

  9. Amy Says:

    I would have noticed, comparing it to the photo. But if I had looked at it without first seeing the photo I think it looks fine. Looks like you’re looking at it from a different angle is all. Just don’t show anyone the photo. 🙂

  10. Friar Says:


    Thanks for the compliment, but Nahhh…I don’t think this piece will be worth too much. I dont’ think I’d even frame this…(too many errors!) (Yes, I know we artsits are our own worst critics!)

    See? I’m being HONEST here.

    I could have just said nothing. A lot of artists do. (That’s why we’re all so full of shit!) 😉

  11. Friar's Mom Says:

    @Wee Friar,

    I didn’t notice the mistake. Perspecitive was never my forte.

    What I did notice was that most lighthouse paintings portray a lighthouse on a spit of land with the sea as background. Yours is unique in that you focus on the lighthouse against the sky.

    I also like the fact that your small lighthouse is footed firmly on solid bedrock. I noticed the repetition of colours in lighthouse and rocks. It pulls the painting together.

    p.s. Is it a dragon or a Lochnessy monster?

  12. Friar Says:

    @Friar’s Mom

    It’s actually a Lochnessy Monster.

    Actually, your observations are astute. I deliberately walked close to the lighthouse, to take the photo form that angle, without the water.

    I wanted something different from the standard lighthouse/water scenes they always show.

  13. Friar's Mom Says:


  14. Friar Says:

    @Friar’s Mom

    You’ve been hanging out the Ozzie lifties too much!

  15. Brett Legree Says:

    Just drop some more acid, the dragon’s still there… trust me…

  16. alison Says:

    I know that lighthouse! When I lived in Sudbury, we used to park at the end of the road/trail that leads there and go hiking around the shore. Did you stop at Mr. Perch for fish and chips the day you took the photo?

  17. Friar Says:


    When you move your hands in front of your face right now, do your fingers leave trails?

  18. Friar Says:


    Yep…I had the fish and chips. I forget the name, but it was the popular one in town that everyone was lining up for. I assume that was Mr. Perch.

  19. I love to paint lighthouses but you are right, they take a lot of patience. Now I’m tempted to try yours just for the challenge but I doubt it would come out as good as yours did.

    Perspective has never been my thing.

  20. Friar Says:


    I remember…didn’t you post a lighthouse painting (probably over a year ago?) I recall that it was pretty good.

    Anyway, next lighthouse I do will be ROUND.

    Feel free to use my photo, though. But I warn you…you might want to keep the rest of your family out of earshot. It’ll drive you crazy!

  21. Brett Legree Says:

    Not right now. Only when I’m at work 🙂 it’s the neutron radiation you see…

  22. Hi Friar,

    I think you’re being WAY too hard on yourself. I think the lighthouse looks fabulous just the way it is.

    Great job!

  23. Friar Says:

    At least the radiation doesn’t’ seem to have affected your abilty to procreate.

    And your kids seem normal, too. I mean, it’s not like they shoot lasers out of their eyes….

    …YET 😉


    Oh, I know I’m my own worst critic.

    But if I had shown this to my old art teacher, she’d have caught onto to my mistakes in a millisecond.

    She kept me sharp, she did.

  24. svc Says:

    It is great that you show us the step by step, and first attempts. It normalizes things for me as an artist. Thank you. It is not just anyone that would do that. Thanks. Good job.

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