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