Art: Dramatizing Flow Within Your Seascapes

The art of painting seascapes:

Remember the sea isn’t ever still. The waves are always rolling in and backwashes and undercurrents, even on the calmest of days. In art it’s our prerogative as artists to take advantage of this, to accentuate and dramatize the flow and action, in order to give our paintings more sensational appeal.

A5 watercolour: Foam patterns in the sea water.

A5 watercolour: Foam patterns in sea water.

Brushstrokes and foam pattern texture:

I advise you to avoid using small thin brushes. Small brushes force you to make tiny fussy brushstrokes. The resulting mess makes your seascapes look spotty and confusing.

Because the sea is always in motion, it calls for free flowing brushstrokes. So it’s only natural we make our brushstrokes appear spontaneous, loose and free. And to support this; where possible, use big brushes and broad strokes, especially at the beginning.

Even foam should have a free flowing appearance. Up to now I used a pointed round brushes -in all the previous seascape blogs. Now I’m going to introduce flat filbert brushes. Why?

  • The holes in the foam are usually rounded, because bubbles pop in the foam as the blanket of the foam spreads and floats. The round tipped filbert brushes make beautiful lacy holes in the `white’ foam.
  • Secondly the rounded tip creates lovely subtle edges.
  • And thirdly, you can make beautiful thick and thin wiggly brushstrokes. Zigzag lines in your painting also emphasize action in your painting.
Art of painting foam.

Using different brushes to create lacy patterns in foam.

Layers or washes of paint:

  • Have an action plan. What you will do to start with, what is the most important feature of your painting and where you are going to place it.
  • If you want your `white’ foam and spray to look dramatic and show up clearly, plan to place it against a darker background.
  • Remember with watercolours you work from `light to dark’. Starting with the lightest colours, and adding darker colours where necessary as the painting proceeds.
  • Exceptions: Dark passages (like rocks and deep sea) look uneven and messy if reiterated and overworked. So if you know where you need a really dark passage, paint that area with a very dark wash directly as one wash of colour. And if you are doing a really large dark area, add a tiny bit of Gum Arabic to your paint mixture, to stabilize the dark wash.

 The need for blending colours:

Seawater looks wet and translucent when you drop-in and gradate colours, especially analogous colours. For example: grouping warm and cool blues together, or merging warm or cool greens in sequence.

The state of your paper:

It’s easier to blend colours if your paper is wet. In the beginning stages anyway! Blurring gives your seascapes a moody atmospheric appearance, and of cause action is blurred.

  • Dry paper and Semi-dry paper creates detail and sharp-edged contours. This gives your seascape a stiff stilted static appearance.
  • So it’s advisable not to start out with dry paper. Dry paper restricts your creativity and easy flow of colour and brush. Seawater should look like its flowing smoothly.
  • Keeping your paper wet, helps you keep your painting pliable as you work.
  • If you want smooth blended, gradated transitions of colour in particular areas, it’s another reason to keep the paper and paint wet in those areas as you work.

Detail and contrast:

Be selective of how much and where you’ll put your detail. Less says more.

  • Rocks are static, so their contour edges are sharp-edged. And foam rushing passed dark rocks will have sharp-edges.
  • But where there is action, spray mist, draining or lapping water, its will be blurred.
  • And of cause there should be contrast of tone, at main point of interest, in some way or other.
  • You don’t want to take peoples’ attention away the main point of interest! So reduce detail and contrast of tone, where possible, around the outer edges of your picture (composition).

 Get to know what your brush can do:

In art, no one learns to paint overnight. Any learning curve is a process. “Little steps get you moving, and before you know it you are fit enough to start running.” Keep in mind: all famous artists were babes to begin with!

  • Don’t try full complete compositions at the beginning. If you expect too much of yourself and anything goes wrong, naturally you will become disheartened and disappointed in yourself.
  • Gain confidence by practicing with small vignette studies. That is, painting only parts or sections of waves on small A5-A4 paper. You can bluff you are doing fieldwork research.
  • Check the difference types of sea formations, how the waves form and how the seawater drains down from rocks, etc.

 Stages of progress:

Continue practicing these exercises. You will see with each exercise your confidence grows from strength to strength.

Later you can put all these `field-exercises’ together to make slightly bigger compositions. But always keep your renditions simple and uncomplicated. It gives your paintings more impact. And as time goes on, with practice your seascapes will start to look more and more realistic.

The art of putting action into your seascapes.

A5 watercolour: Notice how the straight horizon was subtly broken by the undulating action and curves of the wave.

 Perfection can be a hindrance factor if you let it:

If you are worried about perfection and getting everything just right, remember art is a rendition of reality. No matter how good an artist you are, you’ll never re-produce things exactly as God created it. You’ll only get frustrated trying.

Rather go with the mood, the flow of what you are doing and what’s happening. The aim is to enjoy creating `your own thing’, your own really, an impression of what you see. After that people who view your work, will see another dimension of reality!

If you want to learn more about painting watercolour seascapes:

First go to Watercolour Seascapes page and also follow the category ‘Watercolour Seascape Secrets‘ blogs.