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Know your Subject

Knowing your subject when painting | painting the ocean
I often think about an online class I took by Val Webb called “Drawing Children.” At the time, I was amazed at how well Val knows the nuances of the faces and figures of children. Now as I paint the ocean – almost exclusively, mostly in watercolor, but recently in acrylics – I think about not just the techniques to make the painting look realistic, but the characteristics of the ocean.

As I was painting the water, specifically the foam at high tide, I was painting and pulling back the strokes, because I was thinking about how the water is being pulled back by the tide. This is something you wouldn’t know just by looking at a photo. All the time I’ve spent at the beach might be making a difference in my painting. Last summer, after painting the ocean all winter, I looked and observed the water differently than before.

Work in progress where I was “pulling back”
Know your subject - painting the ocean

My son recently asked if I was going to paint anything else. I guess to him, every painting is similar. To me I’m learning with each painting. The ocean looks so different at different times and different angles. I’m sticking with the ocean, and I’m currently challenging myself by working to capture this amazing subject in acrylics.

Click here to view my collection of watercolor seascapes. Prints are available on watercolor paper or canvas, in many sizes.

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Comfortable with Acrylics

Going from watercolor to acrylics, painting acrylic seascapes
Starting this third set of canvases was the first time I felt comfortable – instead of frustrated – with acrylic painting. I was working on my first layer, blending all my colors on the canvas, and I had that feeling that I usually have with watercolor. It’s a happy, satisfied feeling, that what you are picturing in your mind is coming out on the canvas. I’m learning how to work the acrylics. I’m getting it. The first layer of this painting felt like a break through.

The first layer:
Going from watercolor to acrylics

What I’ve learned about acrylics so far this month:

  • A coat of gesso makes the paint go on easier
  • When your brush starts to split – you need more water
  • When your brush is drippy – that’s too much water
  • Blend the colors next to each other for a more natural look
  • Add highlights by adding white paint (or lighter paint) to your brush and blending it with the wet paint on the canvas
  • Use little canvases (or a canvas pad) to test color mixes
  • Painting in acrylic involves more set up and prep than watercolor
  • It is not at easy as watercolor to make a quick fix or change
  • It is better to work when the paint on the canvas is wet and you have plenty of your colors mixed and ready

Click here to view my collection of watercolor seascapes. Prints are available on watercolor paper or canvas, in many sizes.

Want a dose of creative inspiration? Sign up for my newsletter “My Creative Collection” by clicking here. Learn more here.


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The second set of Acrylic Seascapes

Transitioning from watercolor to acrylicTransitioning from watercolor to acrylic
With 10 sets of 12” square canvases to complete this month, I have many paintings in various stages. For these 2, the second set of my acrylic canvas challenge, I wanted to add more lights and darks within the green of the wave. (See before below).
From watercolor to acrylic. Seascapes
I’m learning that with acrylics, it is better to work on a whole area of a painting to better blend the paints and create highlights and shadows. To do this, you need all those colors mixed and ready. I realized this yesterday when I tried to just add some highlights. Without the dark paint to blend into, my quick tweak didn’t go well.

Today I sat and mixed the paints and worked on finishing these. I was beginning to regret fussing with the paintings at all – you fix one area, and sometimes ruin another. At a certain point you have to call a painting done, and take what you learned to the next painting. Overall I’m happy with my progress so far this month.

Click here to view my collection of watercolor seascapes. Prints are available on watercolor paper or canvas, in many sizes.

Want a dose of creative inspiration? Sign up for my newsletter “My Creative Collection” by clicking here. Learn more here.


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Blending and fading colors in acrylic paint

Blending colors in acrylic paint
I was so excited to start the second set of acrylic canvases, I dove right in Saturday morning. I had been mulling over what was bothering me about the first set of canvases, as well as what I learned, and I realized these two things perfectly intersected.

I learned about blending and fading color in this video and then saw Katie Jobling painting a wave in this video. My main complaint with my first set of paintings was that the wave and water behind it looked flat. It looked like a solid block of color. I wasn’t successful in adding highlights and darks to it. What I realized was, I needed to paint, from the beginning, a background that wasn’t solids, but blends. And from there I can add more detail – by adding more blends on top.

Blending the colors is working great so far. I’m really happy with my first layer. It is still a challenge mixing the right colors. I don’t like to work straight from the tube as the colors don’t look as natural. I’ve gotten pretty good at mixing colors in watercolor to achieve the palette I want. I’ll keep trying in acrylic. I do need to use more paint! I tend to mix too little. I’m used to watercolor paints where a little paint goes a long way.

For this set I have my reference photo out, so I can look at the highlights and shadows as I paint the blends. I didn’t refer to the reference photo much for the last set, because I wanted the painting to be a little looser. But I think I ended up missing a lot.

Click here to view my collection of watercolor seascapes. Prints are available on watercolor paper or canvas, in many sizes.

Want a dose of creative inspiration? Sign up for my newsletter “My Creative Collection” by clicking here. Learn more here.


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Making the Transition from Watercolor to Acrylic – Week 1

Transitioning from watercolor to acrylic
Final acrylic work for week 1.

I’m happy with the results and learned a lot this week as I try painting in acrylic after working for so long in watercolor. Admittedly, the first day in my acrylic challenge was frustrating.

I’m so used to working in watercolor where:

  • A little paint goes a long way
  • Water lightens color
  • Paint goes on the paper so easily, especially wet paper with a wet brush
  • You need just a cup or two of water for brush cleaning
  • One paper towel is all you need to occasionally dry a brush

Day 1 with acrylics:

  • The paint wasn’t going on smoothly
  • I was brushing off paint and creating messy clumps
  • I had to change out my cups of water frequently
  • My paint mixes were so dark I had to mix in a lot of white

Lessons learned the first day:

  • Mix in a little water for smoother brushing (helpful site: www.artisfun.com)
  • Perhaps apply gesso prior to painting (recommended by above website)
  • Let layers dry to avoid brushing off paint and creating clumps
  • Have lots of rags handy!

Day 2 with acrylics:
Transitioning from watercolor to acrylic

  • Mixing in a little water helped. Paint went on smoothly.
  • When I want to create a fade in watercolor, I apply the color and then use water to fade it out. Doing this in acrylic, adding too much water, creates a strange look and I worry it will rub off.

Overall, I was proud of my progress on Day 2.

Day 3:
Transitioning from watercolor to acrylic

  • Similar struggle with how to fade colors (without too much water)
  • Struggled with mixing the right color for the sand

Lessons learned on Day 4. (I combined painting with watching instructional YouTube videos.)

  • Fading colors. This video was very helpful regarding fading:.
  • How much is too much water? This video answered my question on mixing in water. 80% paint, 20% water max.

I’m still trying to figure out the right color mixes, especially sand, which is ironic because back at the beginning of my blog (2014), I was painting in acrylic and trying to figure out what color sand is! Overall I’m happy with my progress and am looking forward to learning more next week!

Click here to view my collection of watercolor seascapes. Prints are available on watercolor paper or canvas, in many sizes.

Want a dose of creative inspiration? Sign up for my newsletter “My Creative Collection” by clicking here. Learn more here.


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May Acrylic Canvas Project

May Acrylic Canvas Project! Painting seascapes
I’m so excited about my May project! After painting watercolor seascapes for over a year, I’m adding acrylic and canvas to my routine. I’ve purchased 10 canvases and plan on completing them by the end of the month.

I’ve painted in acrylics on and off over the years, but never enough to feel completely comfortable. Since starting my watercolor seascape project (almost a year and a half ago) I’ve wanted to try my techniques on canvas, and did try it once. The transition wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. The colors I mixed weren’t quite right, and I felt uncomfortable painting at an easel – I’m used to working flat at a table with watercolor.

I decided to do a few things to make my Acrylic Seascape project easier:

A comfortable size. I purchased 12” x 12” canvases – a size I often work in with watercolor. This smaller size will be more manageable on a table, since I plan on working flat.

Shorter handled brushes. The acrylic brushes I have are probably designed for painting on an easel, but the longer handles feel awkward when painting at a table. I bought a new set of brushes with shorter handles.

Familiar colors. I bought new paints in the same colors I use for mixing my ocean and sand colors in watercolor.

A focused time period. My watercolor seascape project began as a month long project. Focusing on one thing, brought results quickly – I learned a lot and my technique improved. I’m hoping my plan of working on these 10 canvases over the month, yields similar results.

Following my seascape process. Over the past year and a half I’ve developed a process for painting seascapes. I plan on following my process, using my techniques, and learning along the way how to adapt it all to acrylic paint.

wish me luck!

Click here to view my collection of watercolor seascapes. Prints are available on watercolor paper or canvas, in many sizes.

Want a dose of creative inspiration? Sign up for my newsletter “My Creative Collection” by clicking here. Learn more here.