The goal of this painting was to capture the details of the wave as it crashes – the shadows inside the foam, the spray, the movement.
I’ve aspired to capture the ocean in watercolor for years. In December I made “painting the beach” my New Year’s project. The snow was falling outside, but I was inside painting waves. With each painting I learned and improved.
Some of my firsts in early January.
I watched a few YouTube videos and learned from others (and wrote about it here.)
I’ve kept with it and over six months later I still often paint the ocean. In some ways I feel like I’ve found my thing.
Yesterday I was standing in the ocean, watching the waves break, watching the foam churned up by the waves wash in and out. It was surreal, like standing in a painting and all I could think about was white gouache.
I added some darks to the rocks and a bird and now I’m considering this one done! Feels particularly good considering this one almost was completely abandoned.
Here are some progress shots:
Preoccupied with other things, I didn’t sit down to paint much this week. So, it feels particularly good to make some progress on this painting today. This painting has been hanging around for a few weeks. It was definitely at risk of going into the scrap pile. But I try to give each one a chance. I know from experience that even the worst beginnings, can surprise you in the end.
When I think about the progress I’ve made in the past two months, there are a few things that standout out to me. First watching videos of other artists painting waves gave me some great tips (which I wrote about here.)
Second, one of the artists was using a flat brush so I bought a couple to try. The smaller flat brush has become invaluable to me.
Lastly, when I started using white gouache for the foam of the waves it was a turning point.
Painting this beach heart was as peaceful and relaxing as sitting on the beach itself. Before I sat down to paint I was looking through my work for something to post on Valentine’s Day. I usually don’t post things from my archives – not that there is anything wrong with that. It just sometimes feels disjointed from what I’ve been working on.
With Valentine’s Day and hearts on my mind, I sat down to paint and thought of a beach scene in the shape of a heart. I think practicing, and working out a process for painting the beach, was a great help in painting the heart from start to finish in one sitting. Ah the sense of accomplishment!
Have a happy Valentine’s Day!
This month I worked almost daily painting the beach. It’s a place that is very close to my heart. I grew up just a few blocks away from it. My mom referred to it as our backyard. I played there, I worked there, and eventually brought my own kids there.
I learned a lot this month. I’ve tried different techniques to capture the foam of the ocean – leave the white of the paper, use a white gel pen, use lots of white gouache. I’ve used different blues in my ocean mixture. I painted landscapes, as well as people close up. But, I feel it’s just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more for me to learn and explore within this theme. So, not surprisingly, I’m continuing with my beach painting project. It probably would have been better to declare this a 100 day project from the start. Although that would have been a bit intimidating.
It is so helpful watching instructional videos and seeing someone break down their steps as they paint. After watching three short videos on painting waves, I came away with several tips.
- Determine what direction the light is coming from
- Create the waves with dark and light areas.
- Where is the detail in the painting? And therefore where is the eye drawn to? Contrasts also draw the eye.
- Keep slivers of white (the paper) which suggests waves in the distance. Add dark areas in front of these.
- Blotting with a tissue can create the spray of a wave
- Dark edges makes the foam look thicker
- Wet sand has blue in it
- Horizontal strokes in your painting make things look flatter – use a flat brush
- Use other colors in the sky, not just blue
- There is a reflection in things that are wet and shiny – like wet sand
- The position of the horizon line effects the vantage point of the painting (where you are standing on the beach)
- The water is greener closer to the shore
- Colors in a painting – use the same colors throughout your whole painting
As I’ve practiced, I’ve come up with my own tips, including:
- Use white gouache to add foam areas, spray, waves in the distance, etc.
Read more about my process for painting the beach here.
Here are links to the videos I watched:
- Painting wet sand in watercolor by Grant Fuller
- Painting a breaking wave in watercolor by Ron Hazell
- How to paint ocean shore waves in juicy watercolors by Chris Petri
Exciting News! I’ve released my first set of watercolor paintings as Limited Edition Giclee Art Prints. Visit my online shop at shop.eileenmckenna.com.
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