Seascape Location Equipment

Gaining experience on location:

One can learn a lot about how to paint seascapes from art books and the internet, but to become a truly good seascape artist you need to do location fieldwork. That is, go down to the sea and learn directly from Nature and all its idiosyncrasies.

  • How the waves and foam form.
  • How the waves ride and break.
  • What happens when a wave hits rocks or clashes with another wave in under-current conditions?
  • What are the true colours of the sea in all-weather conditions?
  • What colours of the sand, wet and dry, etc?
Location observation

A5 watercolour: Close up of dashing waves.

When doing location fieldwork:

Don’t take expensive equipment with you and limit your paraphernalia. You don’t want to carry heavy stuff around while looking for a good scene to paint. It also reduces any ‘toing and froing’ of equipment from the car to the spot you have chosen.

You don’t need the fuss of where you are going to arrange and balance all the stuff around you on rocks or rutted sand.

Because each situation is different, only take out those things you will need from your (light-weight) haversack when you set yourself up at the chosen spot. So that you have less to gather up, should an unexpected wave threaten!

 Suggested equipment:

  • An A4 board to clip your paper to: Panelite or fiberglass boards are very light in weight.
  • A plastic water-bottle with fitting cup lid, so you have fresh rinse water and a water-jar all in one.
  • Also a small handy fine-spray bottle to wet your paper. You don’t want too much water, water can be very heavy!
  • A wet dish-clothe (they manufacture thin light-weight ones these days). Keep it in a small plastic bag to keep it damp and clean when not in use. This clothe is for wiping your hands on or flushing sand out of your paint box if necessary. But its main use is to keep your paper damp (placed under your paper) while you are painting. The reason is that paper dries quickly outdoors, especially in this case it’s generally breezy down by the seashore.
  • I keep a small stock of watercolour paper in an A4 plastic sleeve-pocket, like the ones you put in folder-files. The plastic protects the paper from getting wet.
  • Half toilet roll or paper towel, for blotting excess paint, etc.
  • For technique purposes, a small facial cosmetic sponge to create fine spray that the wind blows off the tops of waves.
  • A fold-out hold-all `pencil box’: I made mine from clothe, with a long zip. It has inner pockets to put stuff in. Some artists include elastic bands to hold their brushes firmly in.
  • A small old towel, (across your lap) to swipe your brush across when your brush is too wet. You can also arrange your paint box and brushes on it if you have to set up yourself on loose sand, to prevent sand getting into your paints. In that case, you’ll resort to flicking your brush to eradicate excess liquid.

Other considerations:

Always have the right clothing to protect yourself against all weathers, so you can work in comfort. Things like:

  • Lip-ice, scarf and a wind-breaker jacket.
  • If you take a hat, sew in an elastic band to make sure it doesn’t blow away in the wind.
  • Brown sunglasses protect your eyes from the glare and flying sand. The white of the watercolour paper creates a glare that distorts the true hue of the colours in your paint box, and after a while you find yourself selecting just any blue or green, until your painting has an unrealistic appearance.
  • I take a camera with me so as to catch special effects. If you take a camera, conceal it in your clothing. This reduces theft and also prevents the lenses getting wet and misting up with the salty atmosphere. I also carry a small plastic bottle of liquid lens cleaner and soft lens clothe in my camera sling bag.
  • Where possible wear flexible rubber shoes to balance on shape rocks, as you seek a place to paint.
  • If you are female, wear shorts or a swimsuit. You don’t want your dress flying up with a sudden gust of wind! Nor do you want an unexpected wave to make your slacks wet.
  • A plastic bag to put your litter in. Fold it up into a compact size when not in use.

What to keep in your car:

  • Also, you may want higher elevation (a better perspective angle) of the scene. Keep a fold-up camping chair in the car. Get one with a place to hold (a glass) for your water-jar and if possible a side flap that’ll hold your paint box, etc for easy access. Its irritating bending down from you chair to get at your water and paints, etc.
  • Keep a wind-breaker shield in your car in case your need it. This type of wind-breaker is those that you peg in the sand, placed on the windward side of where you are sitting.
  • Keep a file of your paintings in your car. You never know when someone seeing you working on location will want to buy one or two of your paintings.
  • Keep a sketch pad and note-book in the car. Some days you may not be able to paint, but would like to sketch the sea and make research notes instead.
  • It’s not fun painting on an empty tummy. Take food that doesn’t litter and is handy to grab and eat while painting, example apples or plain biscuits.
Location observation

A5 watercolour: Clashing undercurrents.

Passing shot:

It sounds exciting doesn’t it?! Yep, painting on location is like going on an adventure, exploring, researching and doing your thing.