Friday, August 19, 2011

Painting seascape: lines of flow

Painting the sea is not for the faint of heart. Turner had himself tied to the mast of a ship in a storm to observe the big waves, Frederick Judd Waugh one of America's greatest seascape artists, had a place on  an island on the East Coast where he used handholds stuck in the rock by pirates a century ago, so he could hang out over the stormy sea. What they were doing and what any seascape painter has to figure out is what I call the flow lines of the water. You must know which way each part of the water is moving. Put these lines down as a sketch, I even use arrows, before you start.

Here is a painting I'm working on. I did a small study first, when I began the larger work I started with a sketch of flowlines

sketch lines of flow

underpainted layout

Closeup of brushwork
This is the under painting close up so you can see the brushmarks.  I have changed it from my sketch to create more rhythm with my wave. So if those flowlines were drawn now what would they look like?


  1. Colleen, thank you. Thanks for giving me a term for it. When I try to paint any water I look for them and if I look at paintings where the flowlines don't look natural, it bugs me and doesn't look real. This is brilliant.

    I love seascapes and you're a genius with them. Thanks for a golden nugget!

  2. you're welcome Robert, it also helps if you can get a kinesthetic awareness in your own body so the muscles can feel it. Its confusing out there watching it so try some sketches on site or at least from a video where it is moving not static. I am no genius, but a lover of the sea, fortunately for me many great painters have come before so I can learn from them. If only Frederic Judd Waugh had published his seascape painting book, he wrote it and it was never published....I'll do a post on him soon, he is one of my main mentors and deserves the term genius sad to think a lifetime of painting didn't get passed on to us.