How I paint a seascape
Living on the West Coast of Ireland with its ever present Atlantic Ocean is any artists ideal landscape for inspiration. On a good day with an off shore wind and thunderous mountains of waves breaking over the rocks in Doolin how good can it get, where the wind is so stong one could think that it is possible to lay directly against it and it would hold you up. When we were young we used to lay on the large slabs of stone with the waves breaking in just below us, listening to the stones being draged out to sea as the waves retreated. As well as watching the waves from above I also did a lot of deep sea diving of the West Coast, nothing more invigorating than being thrown around be large ten foot waves.
with the ever threat of being dashed off the large black cliffs looming above. I first started to paint seascapes when at Art School when we were taken down to a remote area in Kerry called Dun an Oir, absolutely beautiful part of Ireland especially during the spring with a howling wind and driving squalls of rain hanging off the side of a cliff trying to paint three rocks jutting out of the ocean. I did not think that I had done a bad job until one of the tutors turned up and asked me what I was painting! On pointing out the view that I was trying to render he took one look at the rocks one look at my painting and than threw me up against a near by large rock stating “did you feel that, now that is
a rock” and stalked off. The best lesson that I have ever learned on landscape painting, if you are going to paint, paint strong images that scream out of the canvas. If you want to paint the Atlantic, you have to experience it, the invigorating coldness of the sea, the strength of the waves, how the light reflects off the surface, the life beneath the surface, etc, etc.
Before I touch a painting, I primarially design it on computer using images of previous paintings as usually one painting leads into the next. This all sounds well and good and a fail save theory, but my best intensions do not usually work, as some paintings can take me years to complete, on the other hand I might have a creative flow and complete a work within a week. But I always start out with an initial design, it is probably to do
with completing my arts education with a Masters in Design from the University of Dundee for it was here that I learned how to design and how by doing preliminary designs a lot of time can be spaired. The painting on the left “The West Wind” is designed by sticking two previous paintings together that I completed earlier in the year. One of the most important aspects in painting is to have a large selection of colours from which to choose as I never mix colour and apply my paint directly onto the canvas to keep the pigment fresh and clean. The paints that I will be using for this canvas are Prussian blue, Phthalo blue, French Ultramarine blue, Burnt Sienna, Cadmiun Yellow, Viridian green and white. I will post the final outcome to see if I stick to the original design.
Pretty rough, as you can see. I wanted golds, blues, whites and browns in the sky, I painted it all on with a pallet knife. At this particular stage all you are really doing is starting up the layers of colours, to see if something will take hold or more importantly stirr your imiganation. So far nothing so onto stage two.
I liked the right hand side of the painting, I liked the way the colours were forming in bands like light streaming through the sky. To get this particular effect, I just dragged the colour at an angle down towards the rocks, with a pallet knife. I also started to blend the colour here, once again I used a pallet knife. I have a favourite pallet knife, it is diamond shaped and very sturdy, and I have it for about ten years. I have tried out other knifes but they just dont give me the effect that I want. I fear the day that this knife goes missing or breaks.
Now I am blending the colour more, and I have decided that the sea looks like there needs to be more of it on the horizon. I wanted to create a particularly stormy look. Everything is starting to blend in a lot more, once more my main instrument of torture is the pallet knife and maybe a bit of finger work.
I cant remember is I turned this vertically intentionally to see what it would look like in another direction or when I was moving it did I turn it vertically. Whatever the reason I have now decided that the painting looked an awful lot better this way. I thought that the lower left of the painting looked like the torso of a woman and for some reason or another I always mentally connect a vase having a lot of similar attributes with a womans torso.
When I am painting although I always start out with a preliminary design for the canvas, so far thanks be to God, the paint always has dictated as to what the final outcome will be.
Stage 5, Where has the sea gone? SEA GONE WRONG
So this is what happens, my seascape turned into a vase with a bunch of flowers. I am sitting here laughing, so much for that lesson on how to paint a seascape. It should have been a lesson on how to paint a bunch of flowers!
It is all about the thought process and the creative impulse. The most important aspect of painting is never be afraid to destroy your work. As a famous man once said
“Distruction is then the road to creation.
Brilliance is the result of lucky breaks, but, certainly not chance”. Isamu Noguchi
It is very important to take a chance, turn your painting on its head, something might just appear that will get you thinking.