Home » Painting Water 101: Watercolor Techniques For Seas, Oceans & Seascapes

Painting Water 101: Watercolor Techniques For Seas, Oceans & Seascapes

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Step 1: Beginning Sketch

california-seascape-step-1

Prep your painting by taping the edges of your paper to a flat or tilted block. Next, use the reference photo and start sketching the initial composition with a pencil. Place the horizon line (the line that separates the sky from the earth and sea) about a third of the way down the paper, so that there’s more space to paint the ocean and cliffs.

When you first start sketching, hold the pencil in a relaxed and loose grip to ensure a smooth sketching motion, keeping the lines light and simple. Keep looking at the reference photo to get the right position and perspective of the cliff and the surrounding houses, trees, and cars. The drawing should be simple and loose, capturing the mood of the picture instead of focusing on every detail. However, try to find a balance, as drawing too loosely will cause your painting to lose its structure. As you draw the trees, do not try to be photorealistic. Trees come in all shapes and sizes, and you can allow yourself some creative freedom and draw them in a style you prefer.

When you’re satisfied with the cliff, move to the ocean. Sketch some surf on the water where the waves break to add textural detail and establish depth in the lower half of your composition, making sure to increase the size of the waves as you move towards the beach to capture the feeling of the depth and strength of the water current. Then, add a thin line above the horizon line for “atmospheric perspective”, which will be explained and emphasized later. Finally, in the lower right corner of the composition, draw a diagonal line where water meets sand. Great job! Now it’s time to start painting!

Below is a close-up of Bill’s sketch:

california-seascape-sketch