Painting A Seascape

All images ©Bivenne Staiger

Coastal scenes are often favorite motifs for artists, not just because they’re often simply beautiful, but also perhaps because the contrast of land and sea elements force introduction of different painting elements (shape, value, color, line, texture, pattern, etc.). In watercolor, various applications are also utilized. As mentioned in my previous post, sea (or land) and sky should be separated by thirds. Above, only the tops of rocks, a few tree shapes at left, and the line of the sea (comprising 1/3 of the composition space) are sketched. A spray of frisket added to a small segment of sky is visible as tiny yellow spots here.

All images ©Bivenne Staiger

The first stage in painting this scene requires brush and paper preparation and very quick paint applications. A large, flat brush is loaded with sky blue in a creamy consistency, and a large round brush with aqua, also in a creamy consistency. Next, clear water wets the paper at left and minimally where the spray is. Otherwise the rest of the paper is dry.

The sky is quickly painted in horizontal strokes toward the spray. While still wet, a damp – not wet – two inch brush pushes blue paint from the base of the sea spray up into the blue sky. Do you see the streaks? Before it dries, aqua is added strategically here and there to the spray’s base.

Once the paper is dry, darker sea and waves are painted quickly at the fringes of ribbons of clear water on the sea surface shape to suggest fine spray there. Sparkles are achieved with a dry brush, also very quickly applied.

All images ©Bivenne Staiger

To suggest distance in the land mass and rocks, water is applied to the paper just under them, and then very thick, dark paint is added, dry-on-wet, to the top of the wet shape. Paint then bleeds downward leaving undefined marks. This is allowed to dry completely. (Defined rock shapes are painted onto dry paper.)

Rough Seas, Watercolor, 12×16″ ©Bivenne Staiger, 2021

Finally, a few darker wave shapes, trees, and darkest rocks are added, mostly wet-on-dry (except for the foreground rock, applied dry-on-wet at its bottom), frisket is removed, and a few birds dot the sky to complete this scene.

2 thoughts on “Painting A Seascape

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