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The Ultimate Challenge – Painting Seascapes

By Vincent Fischer

Seascapes are considered the most difficult painting subject for a variety of reasons. The sea is always moving and changing. Getting the movement in a painting is difficult. Even far offshore, the water moves, either because of wind or movement beneath the water. Waves breaking will move in different ways. Waves breaking on the shore versus waves breaking on the rocks create different movements.

Color presents another challenge to the seascape artist. Even the clearest sea has different shades in it. Deeper water is darker, foam and lapping edges may be white or gray, and underlying rocks or sandbanks will create darker patches too. Water may be green or blue, depending on what is reflecting off of it. Water can be orange or pink at sunset. When starting a seascape, it is a good idea to observe the area of sea that you want to paint carefully. Look at the area’s elements, the action of the water on the elements, and the patterns that the water creates.

At this stage, an idea of the composition will help. Whether it is just a basic outline or a more detailed sketch, deciding on the composition of the work before you start painting will help you.

The most important decision will be where to place the horizon. If the focus is going to be the sea, put it higher on the page. If the sky is particularly interesting, then drop the horizon line down to give the sky more emphasis. Never put the horizon in the center.

Seascapes can be successfully created using watercolors, oils, pastels and acrylics. The medium you use will be your personal choice. Depicting waves can be done by different techniques depending on the medium. The brush stroke angle could change the look of a wave. The crest of the wave needs the brush stroke to come over the top, while the inside of the wave will need a stroke that is curved under. The easiest way to remember this is to follow the movement of the water – the top is coming over and downwards, the water inside a wave is curling upwards towards the crest.

Seascapes don’t just have to be sea and sky. The focal point can determine the harmony of your work.

You will feel satisfied at the challenge of completing a seascape. As with all art, there is no one right or wrong way to paint a seascape, and the artist’s creativity and imagination can and, some would say, should be incorporated into their work.

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Fischer, Vincent "The Ultimate Challenge – Painting Seascapes." The Ultimate Challenge – Painting Seascapes. 26 Aug. 2010. 24 Aug 2015 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Fischer, V (2010, August 26). The Ultimate Challenge – Painting Seascapes. Retrieved August 24, 2015, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Fischer, Vincent "The Ultimate Challenge – Painting Seascapes"

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