Painting Seascapes

Seascapes are all about light and dark. Shadows, highlights, reflections, and gradients of color are what brings salt air to our faces. In “Lighthouse near Tybee Island“, the mood is set by the melancholic colors of the sea and sky. While overcast and gloomy, nightfall has not fallen, nor have storms blackened the sky. The lighthouse’s light is not on. The reflection of light in the water is representational, much like a lighthouse is a symbol of hope.

Short, choppy lines create a more realistic effect for both the waves of the sea and for the weathered look of structures, such as in “Lighthouse near Tybee Island” above. Changing the mood from wistful melancholy to bright optimism can be done through a change of color scheme and style. In “Steamship Savannah“, the looping continuous lines of the waves are more representational than authentic, and the tones are bright- as if lit by full sunlight on a glorious day. What a difference these changes can make! In the first painting, we feel the life of the sea hardy and the lost. In the steamship painting, we feel the excitement of discovery and pioneering adventure.

In this last example, we turn our attention to the coastline and happy sunny days at the beach. The tones here aren’t stark and vivid like the steamship painting, or murky and gloomy like the lighthouse painting. The mood is set through a soft gradient of pleasant neutrals contrasted by a bright red swimsuit that is repeated in the reflection on the sand. The result is a peaceful, joyful seascape. “My Kids at the Beach” is an oil painting that people tell me makes them want to go to the beach. A change in brush style from choppy or loopy to smooth and shapely, and a change in color scheme can dramatically and radically alter the mood of a seascape.

You can probably see the hopefulness, adventure, peace, and joy leaping off the canvas when I paint a seascape. Some art projects flow easier than others. When we paint what we love, it naturally shines through.