Moody Weather Seascape

Painting moody overcast weather:

Photo of Umhlanga Rocks

Photo of Umhlanga Rocks

This photograph is of Umhlanga Rocks. Umhlanga is a Zulu word, meaning ‘Place of Reeds’, and is found north of Durban, along the Natal coast of South Africa. The reason why the photograph looks so dark and foreboding is because a storm was brewing in the late afternoon when the photo was taken.

The sea is most dramatic, in all its superlative glory, when a storm is imminent. You can feel the tension in the air, the moodiness and power of the sea. So much so, that it affects your own mood. You feel empowered like a ship with the wind behind your back and your `sails’ fully spread. You so exhilarated, inspired, you feel you are able to conquer anything.

That’s when I want to take out my brush and splash paint on canvas. Just to convey the mood and power of that very moment. But alas we don’t always have brush and canvas on hand at the right time or the place. That is why I always try to carry my camera with me when out in the country or by the seaside.

By now, if you have been following my previous blogs, you would have noticed I love painting atmospheric weather conditions.

Oil painting of weather conditions

Oil painting on canvas, 31 x 21.1cm.

Painting procedures:

I don’t know if you have noticed, seascape paintings with mild flat surf are boring. I like dramatic seascape paintings. Seascapes with huge clear waves bounding on rocks or cliff faces are more appealing don’t you think so? Since this scene hasn’t got all that, I exaggerated things somewhat:

Naturally when its overcast weather contrasts are reduced, making tones somewhat similar and colours graduated. If you had to paint it that way, your painting would look grey, dull and uninteresting.

  • Contrasts and tone levels are important in distinguishing what is happening in a painting. But too much contrast can reduce the moodiness of overcast weather.
  • Because seascapes are generally cool cold looking, mostly blues and greens, I added warmer colours to the rocks. Too much fresh clean colour can also reduce the moodiness of the weather.
  • Because sea horizons are straight lines, they tend to cut the painting in half. So to stop this happening, I used compatible tones between the sky and the horizon sea colour. This confirms the weather is stormy and thus to some extent brought back the moodiness of the scene.
  • I also exaggerated the patterns of the foam, not only that you could feel the undercurrent of the water, but also to help direct the eye up and around to the wave at the back. From there the eye naturally reverts back to the rocks, by the contrast attraction of the rocks. Thus a circular link of facts directs the eye into and around the painting.
  • Think about that. Why did I do it? Because people subconsciously tend to peruse paintings in a circular movement, so they can take in the whole painting in one glance before enjoying and analyzing specific parts of the painting.


Since I’m visiting Durban, I thought a seascape was appropriate. Hope you enjoyed this blog. Please let me know if there is anything you would like me to elucidate about painting seascapes. I’m only too willing to help.

If you haven’t seen my other photo demos check out the introduction page and then the `Photo Demos‘ category.

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