More Drama At Sea- Practicing Painting Skies

Just finished this painting, ‘Tale of Whale and a Runaway Prophet’ which was done without a reference photo.  I decided to practice another stormy sky and paint this for a friend’s blog post on the Book of Jonah.

In artists’ lingo, this painting has visual poetry of a narrative drama going on between a whale,  a ship,  its passengers, and a hapless individual tossed overboard in the rough waters.  Values and colors are kept simple with contrast in light and dark, supporting the mood and setting the stage for the narrative.  Rhythm is created in repeated shapes of the sail masts and in the diagonal sets of waves moving in the direction toward the ship.  The whale and ship are positioned going in the opposite direction from each other as in the Bible narrative.  All the while the clouds and ocean waves are brewing chaotically in  an unlikely story which is posted on my other blog, ‘God’s Enduring Love’

Thanks to ‘World of Painting’ on Youtube and a number of Russian artists, I think I learned a valuable and very useful technique to paint interesting and exciting skies.  I would have been a faster learner if I had taken better notes of the titles of the videos I was watching.  (See 2-19 post ‘Creating Drama in Stormy Seascapes’)  My memory seemed to play games with me  when I thought I was looking at the right video, and found the titles were so similar – ‘Stormy Sea’, ‘Storm on the Sea’, ‘Seascape Painting’.  Some stormy seascapes had Part 1 and Part 2 and they all began to look the same to me!  What fun learning from different artists using the same general technique!

So here is the infamous technique I learned that will help anyone avoid having flat-looking skies again:  Basically, large blocks of colors are painted on the canvas. The first photo below shows the artist using the side of his hand to paint a large wave where he thinks he wants it.  He also used his fingers; I used a large 1”  bristle brush.  I may occasionally use a finger tip, but not my hand.  Block in paint from the top to bottom of the canvas.  Go back up and add more color, e.g.  paint more dark blue violet if there’s too much red violet.  Do this until ready to blend sky colors.   (The photos below are from a Youtube video and not my work).

This is REALLY IMPORTANT:  The paint should be tacky and not dry when you go over and paint patches of white to blend the sky colors.  Spread the white paint around in a thin coat but not watery; don’t paint white over the whole canvas.  The artist is using a 2-3” brush to cover over the painted areas, leaving some color showing underneath.  Strokes should go back and forth horizontally and top to bottom over the entire sky portion to have it looking smooth, without streaks.  It is important to wipe the brush clean with a rag after each stroke to avoid mixing colors into each other.

My way was to gingerly, with a light hand, use my largest 1” synthetic filbert to do the blending part and voila!  After 3 seascapes (this being my fourth), I think I have learned a new sky technique!  I learned somewhere that Russian artists are among the best marine painters and I’ve seen a lot of their work in the past weeks, but it’s difficult to learn from them because most demonstrate and speak in Russian on Youtube.   Because of this I spent hours watching their videos.  If you want to learn how to have perspective in a sky alive with color as well as value gradation without hard edges, this is a technique to learn.  Go to Youtube ‘World of Painting’ and you’ll find Russian artists painting seascapes.  Good luck!

“Practice makes perfect; with more practice we should see better art forthcoming!”