Painting the Sea in Cornwall

Painting the Sea in Cornwall

This week I am spending my time in beautiful Sennen Cove on the tip of West Cornwall , not far from Lands End. I try to come once a year a least to rest, relax and paint. We have done just that, we have, walked, rested and swum in the sea.

I have also been able to sit on our veranda look out to the sea and paint.

I bring a few essentials a board to tape my work to, my trusty palette, some kitchen roll, a spray bottle and enough brushes. I always seem to forget something but that's a challenge to paint more spontaneously than in the studio at home.


I love trying to recreate the sea. I have always loved the see, I love water, a walk by a river always seems slightly more exciting than a walk in the countryside. I lived as a child in towns and cities a long way from the coast so a trip to the sea was always a treat, and it has long been my ambition to be able to paint the sea .

It's taken a while to come up with my method, and one I  am happy with. I only like to paint like this when I feel like getting messy, going with the flow. Other days I want to be more precise, those are not wave days.

So this morning I found a nice big piece of watercolour paper.

When you paint outside you can be more messy, spray the paper, 

Things dry quickly in the sun

Here is everything I need.

So I started this moonlit piece with a big piece of paper




I got out my big brushes, and wet the whole paper.

Then I sploshed about some yellow ochre, all over the paper, leaving a rough white round for the moon.

Next I went for the sky. This is all wet in wet. I added cadmium red to the yellow ochre to create an orangy colour, then cobalt blue and cadmium red for the purples, and finally Indigo for the really dark sky. Remember the clouds get smaller the nearer the horizon they go.

next I used indigo to replicate the sea. I left yellow ochre which is where the light is hitting the sea, reflecting the moon light.

Don't try to copy my shapes , be organic and let your brush do some dancing.

Now to sit down and have a nice cup of tea, let it settle a bit.

Once it dries I went back in with more indigo.

Adding shadows under the waves.

Now here is where I cheat a bit. I use white acrylic to form the crest of the waves , the surf.

Just get an old brush and splatter it along the tops of your waves.

Now I need to stand back and see what's working , and what isn't.

Add darks under waves, add more surf, take away some of the horizon line , keep looking and making adjustments.

Finally I took some of the sky away as it looked too regular, added, and took bits away. Played around with the water and the waves , stood back, squinted a bit.

Added a bit more, took a bit more away.


When I am happy ( relatively ) it is done.


The sea is a constant challenge and inspiration, whether here in Cornwall or in my studio.

But I am fairly happy with my Cornish seascapes this week.

I have painted away happily in the sunshine, , beaches, birds, skies and moon lit waves, , I may get a bit messy, but a very happy  artist .


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They are beautiful, and love the adding and taking away. My paintings are far too structured. Want to loosen up as you do. Will give it a go tomorrow !! Thank you.

Karen Dunn

It looks an idyllic cove just my cup of tea 😊
It sounds like you’ve had a fabulous time doing everything for you, exactly how it should be.
Beautiful scenery such an inspiration for your art, I have enjoyed every one of them.
It’s such a shame holidays come to an end, yet I always look forward to getting home into my safe haven and enjoy very much planning my next trip away 😊
Great blog and such a help with how to paint waves etc thank you

Diane Hayward

They all look fabulous to me. I love your unique style. Thanks for sharing your techniques and tips.


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