Seascapes are probably the easiest painting subject because the information is quite repetitive. Once you learn the anatomy of the waves, you can create many variances of them in different settings.
In most cases the eye of the wave becomes the focal point. It is also important to establish an interesting visual “roller coaster” movement that carries the human eye over the top of the wave creating a harmonic visual thrust.
The Anatomy of a Seascape Painting
Recommendations for Painting Seascapes (Relate the points below to the numbers in the photo above)
1. The horizon line, where the water meets the sky, should be convex but not noticeable to the eye. This is because the earth is round.
2. Avoid many hard edges where spray or foam is present. Lost and found edges are pleasing.
3. Create the pillow effect by adding cool blues and violets under the foam part, just like with clouds. Don’t forget to add warm reflected light in the shadow area.
4. Keep the foam very subdued in foregrounds and when possible in shadow. Doing so creates a gradient plane.
5. As with snow and waterfalls, limit your whites. In nature you’ll see a lot of white foam everywhere, but it gets busy in a painting.
6. It’s recommended not to have white clouds in the sky, so as not to stack values if you’re creating white foam. Also, skies should very subdued, just as with still life backgrounds.
7. Seascapes can be set up to have a high horizon line or a low one. It depends on whether you wish to emphasize the water or the sky.
8. Rock contours and crevices should be greatly simplified.
9. When possible, a portion of the wave can cover the horizon line to slow down the eye.
10. To indicate wet rocks, add sky light in the shadow planes.
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