Watercolours: Seascape (demonstration)

Time for another art demonstration! I found an old picture of my Nan and I at the beach many years ago, and while I didn’t want to paint any figures, I thought the beach scene itself was simple yet appealing enough that it would make a good watercolour painting. Once the painting was finished, I decided I had taken enough progress photos that I could turn it into a demonstration post, so here we go. As always, remember you can substitute the colours I’ve used here for the equivalent colours you already have in your palette.

Schmincke Horadam Watercolours:
-Ultramarine Finest
-Permanent Green Olive
-Yellow Ochre
-Burnt Umber
-Payne’s Grey Bluish

Winsor & Newton Watercolours:
-Cobalt Blue

Lukas Gouache:
-Chinese White

-Silver Black Velvet 3/4 inch flat
-Silver Black Velvet size 10 round
-Creative Mark Rhapsody Kolinsky Sable size 4 round
-Creative Mark Ebony Splendor size 2 round

300gsm rough press watercolour paper (I used Saunders Waterford by St Cuthbert’s Mill). You can do it in whatever size you like but I did it on a block 5″ X 7″.

Other Equipment
Masking Tape
Greylead pencil (HB or 2B)

Step 1

Mask off the outside border of the paper with masking tape. Use a ruler to draw the horizon line about two-thirds down the page and the outline of the headland (don’t press too hard with the pencil). You might also want to lightly sketch the shoreline along the bottom. Put another piece of masking tape across the horizon line (the top of the masking tape should be aligned with the horizon line). The sky area needs to be done quickly to avoid ugly hard lines forming, so it’s probably best to mix up puddles of the colours you need before you start, so you don’t waste time mixing while the wash dries. Make one puddle of Cobalt Blue, a little puddle of Yellow Ochre (or Raw Sienna, if you have that instead) and a larger puddle of Ultramarine Finest and Burnt Umber mixed into a bluish grey.

Use a large flat brush to put a clean wash of water over the whole sky area. Working quickly, before it dries, use a size 10 round brush to put in the Cobalt Blue for the blue areas of sky. Rinse your brush and pick up your grey mixture of Ultramarine and Burnt Umber and dab this along the bottom of the clouds to create the shapes, concentrating the darkest parts in the middle and right of the cloud formations. Rinse and dry your brush and use it to gently move some of the grey up higher into the clouds to create a lighter grey. Rinse and dry your brush one more time before picking up a small amount of Yellow Ochre and lightly dusting it along the top edges of the clouds to show the sunlight hitting them. Let this dry thoroughly. Make a dark mixture of Paynes Grey Bluish and Burnt Umber to paint in the distant headland with a size 4 round (if this isn’t dark enough, you may need to go over it again once it is dry with a stronger mix of the same colours). Again, let this dry thorough. Once it has, remove the masking tape across the horizon.

Step 2
The next step will require more wet-into-wet blending like the clouds above, so mix up separate puddles of three colours: Ultramarine Finest, Permanent Green Olive and Yellow Ochre. Wet the ocean area with clean water, then pick up each of these colours and apply them with horizontal strokes, letting them overlap in places while still remaining pure in others. The colours should generally be lighter the closer they are to shore. Apply Yellow Ochre in the bottom corner for the sand (leave a strip of white between the sea and the sand for where the reflections will go; this strip should get wider as it moves to the left and gets closer to the viewer). Blend a little Burnt Umber into the very bottom right corner. Let the painting dry.

(side note: apologies for the oversaturation of this photo, I’m not sure why my iPad camera distorted it so much. The painting isn’t this bright in person.)

Step 3
Go over the sea area again with the same colours you used above, dropping a little Paynes Grey Bluish in along the horizon on the left. Create a puddle using all three of your sea colours and add a little Paynes Grey Bluish (the colour you end up with should be a bit darker than the sea areas). Using a mostly dry size 4 round brush, pick up some of this dark sea colour and add some horizontal strokes to show the shadowed areas of some incoming waves. Once these have dried thoroughly, use a size 2 brush to carefully brush some Chinese White gouache along the tops of the waves for the foam (flick it down in a few places to show it crashing down) and in a few other areas to indicate light sparkling on the water.

Wash clean water along the white area between the sea and the sand, making it overlap onto the sand a bit and leaving a narrow, uneven strip of dry white paper at the water’s edge. Using your grey cloud mix of Ultramarine Finest and Burnt Umber, drop some grey into this to show the clouds reflecting in the wet sand (make it darker along the right side, where the clouds are darkest). Drop in some Cobalt Blue in a few places on the left.

Now all that’s left is to sign your name, which you can do with a size 2 round and a slightly darker mix of Yellow Ochre and Burnt Umber.

Thus ends today’s art demonstration. Though it may look challenging, watercolour can be made easier by mixing up your colours before you start painting, so you don’t have to worry about your wet washes drying on you before you can mix the next colour. Until next time, happy painting!

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