Seascape Contrary Facts

Facts verses emotional content:

Okay, up till now in my previous seascape blogs, we have talked about the blurring of action and movement in seascapes, and how blurring creates emotional impact in your paintings. But now, we are going to discuss contrary facts, differences between blurring and detail. Not only where to put detail contrast but why it forms in those places.

Contrast facts

A5 watercolour: Contrast of edges, tone and colours makes a dramatic effect.

Blurring of action and motion:

  • Naturally foam and spray is blurred, especially in the shadows.
  • And of cause where water is forcibly hitting rocks and rushing over the rocks.
  • Also where the water of the wave is cascading forward and turning over the inner tapped foam.
  • Plus, mist and fog softens the scene and creates emotional appeal.

We need distinguishing facts to bring things into focus:

There can’t be only be blurring in your seascape paintings. We need for sharp edges and a certain amount of detail. But why contradictory?!

  • Well, if there is too much blurring, your painting won’t have recognizable details that states what’s actually happening in your painting.
  • So we need a certain amount of contrast, sharp-edged brushstrokes, neat contour edges and fine detail to bring things into focus.
  • And tonal contrast puts oomph into your otherwise blurry wishy-washy scene. If you don’t mind my watery pun!

Here are a few places you’ll likely to find those sharp-edged facts in seascapes:

  • The top-edge contour-ridge of a peaked wave just before it breaks and turns over. The reason it’s darker just at that point is that the water is starting to triple over and is slightly thicker (gathered and condensed) there and its weight drops forward.
  • A certain amount of value-definition is added just at the turning-curve of the wave. This little bit of darker definition contrasts with the clear sheer transparency of the water of the wave close by. You may not see this situation. It all depends on how the peak is formed in the moment of turnover action or if there is a returning tidal wave or undercurrent influencing the situation.
  • The undulating-contour or ridge-edge of incoming swelling waves, need inconsistency of blurred edges and sharp edges. Why? Because the sharp edges pronounce the power of the wave. And the blurring stops it from looking static. The variation in undulating lines and differences in edges is more comfortable than stiff neatness. Why? The variation creates breaks the neatness of the contour lines. And this is strangely bridged and subconsciously acceptable as people `read’ (peruse) your painting. Whereas on the other hand, neat contour edges cut up the painting into separate collage-like dimensions.
  • Even though turnover wave-foam is fragmented, there is a certain call here and there for a few sharp-dry-edged brushstrokes, to give the foam distinguishable form, especially as it falls within a darker area.
  • In the case of white’ water running off dark wet rocks in rivulets, the contrast gives your painting a dramatic touch.
Even though you may not be an artist reading this blog, its fun to make it a game looking for blurred and sharp edges when you visit the beach.

There are also other ways of softening and contour edge:

Blurring isn’t just having soft-edged brushstrokes (ie painting wet-in-wet method) but also using gradation of colour and tone. I can hear you thinking, “What is that, for what reason, how and where?”

  • What is it? Gradating colours and tones to create smooth visual transitions over potential problematic contours that could possibly restrict visual advancement.
  • Purpose: Thus assisting the eye to flow easier from one area or plane to another, thus preventing jerky visionary exploration of the painting.
  • How: Using similar colours and tones to that of the object or its contour.
  • Where in relation to the wave: Long-side the object, ie to the contour curve edge of pecked and turning waves.
Contrary facts

Variation and differences in tones illustration.

FACTS ABOUT COMPOSITIONAL STRUCTURE:

Aaah! Now the big deal:

Because rocks and cliffs are usually dark they stand out against `white’ foam, thus making a dramatic structural element in your painting. With all the blurring and blending of colours and tone, this solid structure gives strength and weight to your composition.

And the other factor, there must be some symbolic structure in your seascape to give it reason. People recognize rocks, cliffs, boats and birds. Adding up all these factors, they immediately recognize the scene as a seascapes and what is happening in your painting.

Stabilizing latitude and longitude `grid’:

  1. Latitude: Even though we spoke about making long wave contour-ridges inconsistent, their undulating linear formation does form a stabilizing factor that gives the impression that it `grips’ the sides of your composition (watercolour paper).
  2. Longitude: And anything that drops down from the top of your paper or protrudes upward from the base of your paper, forms a ‘gripping’ latitude stabilizing factor.

Note:  Even though these two `linear’ formations should form an in-consistent broken ‘grid’, and may not actually touch the sides of your paper, they are none the less subconsciously accepted as stabilizing composition factors.

  • Latitude examples: Horizon line, undulating horizontal waves, floating foam and scud rushing up the beach.
  • Longitude examples: clouds, rocks, birds, river outlets, wooden anchor poles, sun or moon reflections. Things don’t have to be perfectly perpendicular. Any oblique contour or action line will do, eg: cliff-faces.

Looking forward to hearing from you:

Please tell me your experiences in painting watercolour seascapes.  I’m sure others would like to know too. We learn a lot from each other. `Sharing watercolour secrets is caring’!

For more on painting watercolour seascape, start again on the introductory page.

How much detail?

Photo detail

Photo of a Kendal farm stream, on the East Rand, Transvaal, South Africa.

The microscopic view:

Amateur artists are amazed by the fine realistic detail they see in the great works of the old masters.

Because of the fine detail they see, they get the false impression that detail is important, and so they fuss and fiddle to get their own paintings just perfect. And because the old masters had complex compositions they think every corner of their paintings must have something in every spare space.

If you aiming for laborious photographic detail, you might as well stop wasting your time painting and blow your visual aid (reference material) photo up to a larger size and frame it!

What aspiring artists don’t realize is that detail is carefully handled by the old masters to convey the right impression. What do I mean by that?

To start with, ten to one the paintings with lots of fine detail were large paintings. With small paintings there isn’t room to cram detail in!

To draw attention to the main point of interest, they controlled the outer edges of their paintings:

  • The immediate surroundings of objects have similar tone levels to that of the objects.
  • The immediate surroundings of objects have similar or analogous colours to that of the objects.
  • And the contrast of tone and colour is strengthened at the main point of interest.

As time went on artists got cunning:

  • They started blurring the details around the outer edges of their paintings and putting more emphasis on the centre part of their paintings, to create tunnel vision. Putting the spotlight and focus on the main characters at the main point of interest makes your painting more dramatic.
  • They also started reducing the amount of detail in the foreground. This was done so that the eye could travel easier over the foreground, drawing you more dramatically into the painting.
  • I call these blurred foregrounds ‘a lot about nothing’. In other words, the less descriptive areas are still interesting but less obtrusive.
If someone moves while a photo is taken, their image is blurred. That means action is blurred, eg: blurred wings of flying birds. Considering that train of thought, if trees, grass and wild flowers move in the breeze, their foliage will be blurred.If that is the case, it makes sense that blurring in paintings isn’t a bad strategy, but a fact of Nature. So why not use it with other things that live and breathe as well.That is food for thought, don’t you think!

 In watercolours:

You have to reduce details even further. Why? Because:

  • You start with a wash of colour on wet paper.
  • And refine the schemata shapes and add detail as the paper dries.

 How much detail?

About 15-40% detail, depending on the type of subject matter involved.

Take note:

  • Having less detail means you have more control over wet washes and flexibility to change things as you work.
  • Complex compositions are difficult for beginners to handle.
  • Less detail draws more attention to the more dominant shapes (objects) in the composition, giving you a stronger statement.
  • Don’t expect perfection: Trying to get things perfect can be frustrating. Fussing and fiddling makes your watercolour look tired and messy.
  • Nobody can reproduce what God so perfectly created.
  • If every detail is distinct and well pronounced, they all call attention at once. This causes confusion.
  • Don’t clutter your work. Detail should be selective and well placed.
  • Each detail is read like shorthand. Small dots and dashes act like full stops and comas and as you would use in grammar. A string of them It directs the like a trail of facts for the viewer to assess your painting. Just make sure you don’t over use your exclamation marks!
  • Blurring unnecessary details creates atmospheric mood.
  • Blurring is sensual. And people buy paintings according to their senses and emotions.
  • If your painting has a lot of detail, try to keep some areas blurred and uncluttered.
Watercolour detail.

A4: This watercolour has about 60% detail. Why so much detail? In this case I wanted to capture the feeling of the feral leafiness of nature. But notice how the smooth blurred areas make it somehow more acceptable.

Illusion of reality:

It isn’t the job of the artist to produce authentic detail, while copying directly from reality. Art is creating another dimension or translation of reality. What you create is your own personal perception and impression. You use suggestion to convey reality.

People are fascinated by illusions. They like to surmise and put their own connotation on what they see in your art. People love using their imagination, to reason and gossip. Make it so that they never get bored with your paintings and always have something they didn’t notice before.

That is why watercolours are so appealing. Because they are applied in a spontaneous manner, the loose free expression, the blending of colours and gradation of contour edges is more appealing than sharp-edged accurate detail.

 Is detail important?

Yes and no. Why is that?

  1. First of all people assess a picture symbolically.
  2. Second they read the shape by its outline.
  3. Therefore the shape and outline is more important than the inner section of the shape.
  4. The inner part suggests the mood of the shape, or the state of a person, whether they have a red dress or blue pants on.
Remember details are like trimmings, frills, button and bows on a dress or blouse. If a dress has too much fills and bows, the person is considered overdressed. So be careful not to over titivate your paintings.