Painting Rough Seas

Trying a New Way to Paint

The photo above is from World of painting- YouTube.  You can Google it and see ‘Seascape oil painting. Ocean. Part 1.  It shows the early stages of a rough sea painting in a two part tutorial. The first blocking in was a big mess of ugly colors. I don’t know who this artist is and he has no narration at all.  I think it might be a Russian artist who covers his canvas in similar fashion as AlexAndAlexei, two Russian artists also on YouTube who have over 75,000 views of their ‘Sea Storm’.  What amazes me is that the poor canvas went through a battering with a two inch house paint brush like the artist is a lunatic.  But really these artists’ final seascapes are brilliant, beautiful and full of the drama of what rough seas are all about.

I’ve decided to explore new ways to paint that encourage more creativity and a looser, more impressionistic style of painting than my less exciting painting style.  If I can move my work in that direction I will post photos in the future!   Anyway, I’m looking at stormy seas videos with stormy clouds and turbulent ocean.

Searching for Seascape Teachers on the Internet

I hope to do a couple of paintings of rough seas.  In fact my goal over the next few weeks is to paint a picture of Noah’s ark in very rough seas.  But first I need to study lots of photos of the rough ocean, and also watch a lot of the free seascape videos on YouTube.   That to me is the best place to pick up a few good pointers and practice painting along, if it’s possible.  There are many excellent videos, but there aren’t many who actually are exceptionally good teachers who demonstrate a painting from start to finish, except for a few young men I came across recently, like Kevin Hill who has 225,000+ subscribers, and JM Lisondra with 120,000+ subscribers, both who painstakingly teach their students the skills needed to paint with confidence.   But they don’t necessarily focus on marine paintings as some Russian artists do.  There are a gazillion art teachers online and some offer seascape courses, though their paintings are pretty mild compared to the roaring seas of Ivan Aivazovsky, Igor Sakharov, AlexAnd Alexei on YouTube, and others.

 An Example of a Painting I Hope to Do- by Ivan Aivazovsky:

Getting Started. . .

An old canvas met a miserable end; it was in the process of being painted over to be used for another piece of work, was sanded and readied for my new experiment, as well as another new small canvas.   Skies are my main interest though learning about how to paint waves naturally go with painting these compositions.  Here is where I am right now:


I began by paying attention to how the colors and movement in the sky was developed. Here are two different paintings that I’m working on by Russian artists.

Mixing Turquoise. . .

On my easel you can see that I’ve started to add value contrasts.  The blocking in of colors is coming out O.K. and I made my own turquoise mixes.  But the sky lacks drama and needs more dark color.

I didn’t have a tube of Cobalt teal, Turquoise, or Emerald Green for the ocean. In my file box of color charts, I made studies of every tube of paint that I have; I also did value scales with combinations of different tube colors.  I almost bought a tube of turquoise recently, but didn’t, knowing  I could mix it myself with a tube of blue and a tube of green.  But which ones?

I found that ultramarine blue and phthalo green with a little cadmium yellow light and titanium white made a good turquoise. Cerulean Blue and phthalo green only need some white and no yellow, and they make a warmer, prettier turquoise, but the old tube of Cerulean someone gave me from a garage sale was dried out, but I dug some out and was able to do a sampling. Another good mix is ultramarine blue and viridian green which is very versatile for greener and/or bluer turquoise water and has good transparency for the ‘eye’ of the waves.

The Value of Making Color Charts

In five years, when I began painting again,  I have done over 50 color charts on recycled cardboard.   Paul Taggart has many tutorials on color mixing and taught me the value of making color studies.   I had only a few tubes of basic colors then and learned how to mix oranges, greens, violets, and browns from 2 blues, 2 reds, and 2 yellows, plus white.

Most of the charts were painted in acrylic paint, whereas now I often paint with water soluble oil paints and now I need to make more charts for oil paints.  Though the  colors from different mediums don’t quite match up, they were close enough to show me which blues and greens could make various turquoise.   Charts are very helpful and give me confidence in choosing sky, water, and earth colors, and a way to use my leftover paints on the palette.  My choice of turquoise was the ultramarine blue and phthalo green mix.



Shown here is my Masterson palette (top left) with paint threads burnt umber and ultramarine blue and ultramarine blue with phthalo green.   I used some of the leftover paint to make the turquoise chart as well as other tubes of blue and green in the second photo. The glass palette is two pieces of glass from 11×14 recycled photo frames, taped together.  The other photos show a color wheel with all of my tube paints and a chart of tints and shades; also charts of primary colors and burnt sienna.

I hope that you will make lot of charts too, because doing so will build confidence in mixing paints and develop and refine one’s sense of color.  If you don’t have a source of recycled cardboard, a pad of acrylic/canvas paper will do.  Color charts that are a must should include blues, greens, earth colors, as an example.   I often look through them when doing landscapes and seascapes.  Earth colors of browns with reds and oranges helped me a lot when I painted the Waimea Canyon on the island of Kauai.  Happy painting!