Crashing waves step by step

Crashing waves step by step

As many of you will know , who follow my FB page or Twitter account I have just returned from a week in Cornwall. We stayed in a cottage overlooking the wild Cornish sea and watched everyday , remarking constantly on what changed and how we could look at it without getting bored, for hours.. We also walked the cliff path and swam in the sea, seeing it from different angles and view points . Finally when we weren't staring at, or swimming in the sea, we were in galleries looking at other artists interpretations of it. In one gallery I got chatting to an artist and finally admitted that ' yes I did a bit of painting too', after chatting about styles and mediums he asked how I made a living , I talked about sales, cards, prints, and social media, then mentioned my blog...."oh no" he said " you must never give away your secrets " . I have thought about what he said since then and come to this conclusion. I love to paint and I love to share what I know , if I can inspire others to have a go then I am very happy, I don't want them to copy everything I do but I know from bitter experience how frustrating it is to be 'stuck' and we all need a little 'leg up' now and again to get us going again. 

So totally disregarding his advice here is as detailed a blog as I have ever written on painting this seascape, I ,by no means know all there is to know about painting, but this is where I am with the sea just now.

Firstly I draw a simple sketch

I use a ruler to get the horizon line right

And when not sitting by the sea i use a photo 

Next I use a piece of masking tape. I try and take some of the stickiness off it by sticking and un-sticking it to my trousers a few times, Then I stick it below the horizon line

Now I can paint the sky without worrying about it going into the sea.

I used cerulean blue, and some yellow ochre, with a touch of, also some purpley colour with cobalt blue and cad. red.

It is a very subtle sky

When the sky was dry I applied masking fluid, I splattered it with a toothbrush too, look where you want to retain the white, or where the foam is, try to 'paint' with the masking fluid, so it looks more natural when you remove it.

I use colour shapers to apply masking fluid 



I missed out a lot of the crashing wave bit as I knew it was large enough to paint around. Then  stuck some masking take above the horizon line so I could paint the sea

I used my darkest colours in the furthest part of the sea. I used indigo, cerulean blue phthalo blue, turquoise, veridian  and played around with the colours.Have some fun and don't be afraid of your painting. The more you do the more confident you'll be

I am working my way down the paper, painting around the foam , and looking for lights and darks. These are what make the painting sing I think, you need contrast and interest.

There are real shadows in the sea if you look closely 

I also turn the painting upside down , so the darks run into the corners of the waves , add colour and shadow as you go.

I use my fingers to rub the paint in and create softer edges 

Now for the rocks

I don't like to use brown, I use yellow ochre, with purples and blues for the shadows. I also splatter some orange onto the painting for the lichen and seaweedy stuff on the rocks. Again look for shadows and try to be random and loose. If it looks good ,leave it , rocks are fun to paint

Now I have nearly filled in the whole of the paper , but it needs more impact,. I add shadows to the foam behind the rocks again using my fingers and splashing and spraying the paint around. Don't be afraid to get messy.

Then the wave in front of the rocks needs dark underneath and shadows to make it come 'alive'. Add different tones of blue and green , make your painting as dynamic as you dare

Behind the rock where the spray is, there are lights and darks too

Now I walk away for a bit and let it settle , once dry, I rub off the masking fluid with a rubber, and see where I am

Finally it is a case off adding the finishing touches, breaking up lines that are too hard, adding dark tones. Splashing and splattering some white acrylic until i am done

Maybe i have gone too far ( knowing when to stop is a real skill in painting) However a damp cloth and some clean water can get rid of some unwanted marks and my seascape is done, 

I always want to do better , end up with perfection, but I know I never will. Sharing my work, and learning from others is such a joy , I hope those who want to have a go at painting the sea too

Have fun x






  • Agi Hosni

    I’m not good at these blog things . How can I find it? Once you are proficient, as you are you can choose. As I am learning I feel
    It’s important to master what I was always taught to be true technique. Using the white is why, for me, watercolour is both terrifying and magical

  • Rachel Toll

    Hi Agi when you say adding white do you mean the masking fluid or the white acrylic? I have painted waves without both, but this time I chose to use both, when using the white of the paper you have to be mega careful , my last blog about seascpes I didn’t use masking fluid at all but sometimes used white acrylic .

  • Agi Hosni

    I love your work and really appreciate this . I hope to be as good as you . I would like to ask if you ever paint without adding white ? This is what I really hope to learn to do . Thank you again

  • Susan Beaumont

    I can’t tell you how thankful I am that I found your paintings and that you have created these two beautiful blog posts on painting the sea. I long to learn how to paint water as I’m often canoeing and kayaking which I will be doing again this summer I will only have a little travel pallet and sketchbook with me but I am so looking forward to really looking through your blogs try to paint the scenes I know I will be photographing. I tried to paint lichen on a rock and an underwater shelf on hidden Lake in the Northwest territories — at a glance through your blog I see how you painted lichen very gently and loosely. I long to paint the northern Waterscapes that I paddle in. Thank you Rachel with all my heart

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