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What does ‘seascape’ mean to you?

A seascape can be a view of the sea or a picture or painting representing a scene at sea. Here are my tips on how to paint one more easily.

Is a seascape a landscape?

What is difference between a landscape and a seascape when used as a noun?

A landscape means a portion of land or territory which the eye can comprehend in a single view, including all the objects it contains.

Whereas a seascape means a piece of art that depicts the sea or shoreline or just a view of the sea.

How do you paint a seascape?

A seascape can be a challenging subject to paint as water is unpredictable by nature and has translucent and reflective qualities. These tips should make painting a seascape easier to tackle

  • Capture the main direction of the water.
  • Put in the general structure of the seascape
  • Understand How to Paint Reflected Light
  • Make Use of Broken Colour
  • Use Soft and Hard Edges
  • Match Your Brushwork to the Nature of the Seascape
  • Create Harmony Using Common Colours

Capture the main direction of the water using line drawing.

Put in the general structure of the seascape

A seascape has a general structure which you should try to capture. This structure may be simple or complex, depending on the type of seascape you are painting.

A calm seascape with glassy water will have a very basic structure. You are essentially just painting a flat surface. A rough seascape during a storm will have a more complex structure as the water chops and churns.

Try breaking the subject down into boxes, cylinders and ovals. You can paint anything with these shapes, including seascapes.

Understand How to Paint Reflected Light

Water is partially reflective by nature, so some light will bounce off it. This bouncing light is what creates reflections in the water.

Depending on the stillness of the water, the reflections could be a mirror image of the sky above or a shattered mirror of broken color.

A tip for painting accurate reflections is to use darker lights and lighter darks. So the lights will not be as strong and the darks will not be as deep as the sky (or whatever is being reflected).

Oceans Blue II original wave painting on canvas for sale online
4. Make Use of Broken Color

The broken colour technique is perfect for capturing the translucent and reflective nature of water. It also allows you to build up some interesting texture for the water. If you look closely at the ocean, you will not see just one solid color (even though it may look like that from a distance). You will probably see different blues, greens, yellows and purples on a clear day. During the sunset, you will probably see different reds, oranges, yellows and purples.

The broken color technique involves using unblended strokes of distinct colors. These colors could be closely related (light blue and dark blue), or completely different (red and green). The colors you use will obviously depend on what kind of seascape you are painting.

Sea Green Waves V original oil painting on canvas framed and ready to hang

Soft and Hard Edges

Hard edge – A very crisp transition between the two shapes.

Soft edge – A smooth transition between two shapes.

Lost edge – A transition between two shapes which is so soft that you can barely see it.

Most of the edges in seascape paintings will be soft or lost. This is because water is not a rigid structure and there is usually a gentle transition from one area of the water to the next. But a few cleverly placed hard edges can have a huge impact amongst mostly soft and lost edges. Here are some appropriate places for hard edges:

  • The top of a crashing wave.
  • The horizon line which separates the sea from the sky on a clear and sunny day. On an overcast or stormy day, a soft edge may be more appropriate.
  • The edge which separates clear water and white foam.

Match Your Brushwork to the Nature of the Seascape

Here is a general tip which I find particularly useful for seascape painting. Try to match your brushwork to the nature of the seascape.For example, if you are painting the crashing waves of the turbulent seas, try using broken and exaggerated brushwork. However if you are painting the calm water of a morning seascape, then use long and smooth strokes.

By doing this, you will build up a texture which matches the seascape you are painting. The individual strokes will also reinforce the gesture and structure of the seascape.Mix up your brushwork to add a sophisticated level of contrast to your painting. A calm seascape may have small areas of turbulence where you can add some strong brushwork (like where the water is breaking on the shore). A stormy seascape may have calm areas between the crashing waves where you can add some more subtle brushwork.

Ocean Waves III large sunset painting oil on canvas for sale online

Create Harmony Using Common Colours

In seascape painting, the water will share many common colours with the sky due to reflected light. For this reason, I will often jump back and forth between the water and sky to make sure there are common colours used for both areas.

For example if I were painting the highlights on clouds in the sky these same light colours and could then be used to paint the white foam on top of the water. Or I could use the light blues from a clear sky and add some of that colour to the sea to give it variance.

2 Responses

  1. Damian Stone
    | Reply

    Hi Catherine
    I have been looking for a seascape painting for over 2 years for the wall in our house. I came across your website a few months ago and I love your style of painting, You seem to capture the moment like no other artist.
    A couple of questions:
    Are your paintings limited in size?
    Ideally, we are looking for a landscape seascape painting 60 x 30 inches.

    Let me know your thoughts?

    kind regards


    • Catherine Kennedy
      | Reply

      Hi Damian
      Thanks for your email. So glad you like my work. I am happy to paint large scale and have done some big sized commissions in the past.
      I am just looking into sizes for you and will email you shortly with more information on canvas size options.
      Kind regards

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