Tag Archives: painting ocean waves

How to Paint Ocean Waves

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How To Paint Ocean Waves
By Cricket Diane C Phillips, 2008, 2007

When I start to paint, the memories of times when I’ve stood at the ocean come to mind. There are swirls of color and ever-changing patterns of light captured in the water that fascinate me when I am watching the waves. Ocean waves undulate in infinite contrasts, highlights and shadows. To me, there is a feeling captured in each moment of time standing at the ocean.

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In a painting, I want to convey those captured moments of feeling with all its motion, color and light. The first thing I do is to remind myself of something I’ve seen in the water that I would like to create. Strangely, this isn’t always found in a photograph of the ocean or even of water. These rarely capture the intertwining motions of light and color found in the ocean waves.

CricketDiane 2017 (re-post from 2008)

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Painting and Creating Ocean Waves in Art

Re-post from 2008 CricketDiane Blog – Painting
The Ocean As A Subject of Art – 2 – Cricket Diane C Phillips – 2008

  1. Make it candid, genuine and real.
  2. Pushing color into wave foam (to strengthen contrast and bring out definition in curl of the wave)
  3. Soften or crisp horizon line
  4. Add detail cautiously and as least ( minimum) as possible
  5. Have palette of techniques for effects
  6. How to paint ocean waves from as many sources as possible
  7. Form the wave, form the play of foam nearest the viewer, soften the horizon for misty look / sharpen horizon for clear or cool weather; add distant crests
  8. Give visual texture to the sky, smoother is more distant; use swirls, feathered effects, light behind or light above / below clouds for definition
  9. Each color choice carries an emotional character when combined and contrasted
  10. Try – then stop – set it aside – leave it and do another.
  • Scan or photo and look at with computer –
  1. did it do what you wanted?
  2. are there areas that you see an effect you could use in another piece or enhance?
  3. what did you do to get that effect?
  4. overall – what does it say to you / remind you of / feel like? how could it do that better or more so?
Happy Painting!
Cricket’s Sea - by Cricket Diane C Phillips - Cricket House Studios - 2008

Painting Ocean Waves How To Especially in Watercolors / Watercolour

This is a reply that I made to a comment requesting information about painting ocean waves – particularly in watercolor and it expresses the way to get the paint to do what you want for making a beautiful painting of the beach surf and waves –

The comment –

am trying to learn to paint ocean water, transparent water with little waves on a beach .Do you have any DVDs that I can buy, or suggest some to me,that would be good, and where I can get them, Thankyou, MILAN CVJETIC.

My response about painting ocean waves –

I’m sure there aren’t any I would watch – but that’s because it would be easier to get out some paint and play with it until it does what I want. Today, there isn’t a dvd that I’ve made about creating ocean waves in watercolor, however try this –

Imagine what the finished piece will be and the moment that you want to capture.

Everywhere there is to be sparkle, foam or waves – don’t put any paint there. Don’t wet the entire watercolor paper, but instead paint with limited areas of wetness across the page from side to side where the foam, sparkle and froth of the waves will not be.

Sounds pretty backwards, doesn’t it? In essence, paint everything in deep hues where the sea is getting deeper away from the viewer until it nears the horizon while leaving the irregular shapes of the wave crests near the viewer and where there are hints of building waves in the middle behind the detailed areas in the foreground.

There is a dry brush technique that works great for sparkle in watercolor – try it first on a separate piece of watercolor paper. Fill the dry paintbrush (stiff bristles have one set of effects, soft bristles have a different look done this way) with paint by gently, lightly dragging it across the top of the paint so it doesn’t fill the bristles completely. Then pull the color across the page drifting it across the surface in one smooth motion. Each swipe across the surface will fill in some of the color under the sparkle. This isn’t white paint in the brush, although you can do that with acrylics or oil paints.

 

For watercolors, the paper provides the only pure white in the painting, so when the sparkle happens – it is literally the paper showing through the other colors that convey visual information beneath the foam, the spray, the breaking wave froth, and the sparkly little bits that to the viewer seem to be on top of the water. It is easy to fill the brush with several colors of the water and sand to drag across the paper in front of a breaking wave to convey the sparkly foam in the shallows where we would splash and dig our toes into the wet sand.

There is a little shadow beneath each wave’s crashing froth – it can be created with a light wash with only a hint of wet pigment slightly darker than the sea water and depending on the time of day in your painting, the frothiness of the wave can be captured with swirls of very, very thin Prussian blue washes blended gently into the areas of white or using lightly wet soft bristles partially filled with a very, very thin wash of Payne’s grey. Try it on another piece of paper first.

The clouds and sky will be the same thing – where there are white volumes of clouds must be left unpainted because where the white paper is ever given a tint, it will never be white again. The horizon at certain times of day and in some weather conditions will be almost invisible and lighter than the surrounding upper sky or deep ocean areas. And, at other times it is well-defined and occasionally, deeper in color. What looks right in your mind’s eye? Clouds can be defined from the white surface of the paper using light thin washes of blueish purple, grey, or cobalt that develop the curving forms of shadows beneath their fluffy round forms.

Sunsets and sunrises, afternoons and dusk, all have particular tints to everything. As long as the tints match throughout the painting, it can be believable as if your viewer is standing at that place at that time of day.

 

The best thing to do is to have some fun with experimenting to find the different effects that can happen, but the basic rule for painting in watercolor is that white areas are left clean and lightly developed, lighter values go on first and each layer of color builds to the darkest which is painted last, rather than first as in acrylics and oil paintings.

Great fun painting – can’t wait to see the results!

– cricketdiane, 07-31-09

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