The sea ! A painter heads to Sennen Cove

The sea ! A painter heads to Sennen Cove

I am away in Cornwall again this year , in West Penwith, at Sennen Cove, probably one of my favourite places in all the word. My head brimming with sea views, wildflowers, sunsets, and amazing skies. In short my head brimming with ideas.

We have swum everyday, and not being the most athletic person I know, and loving the water I could definitely be an inspiration for one of my swimming women

Loving the skin I'm in!

Sennen and the coast around here, is somewhere I enjoy painting and the coast is a difficult subject, so here is a blog from a few years ago about painting the sea. I hope it resonates 



Oh my, what have I done ! The sea, what an amazing, complex, huge , frustrating and wonderful subject. One that has caused me hours of joy and hours of frustration in equal measure, and one that I return to time and time again especially when I am near the sea. It is a need in artists to try to capture an essence of what they see, like picking up a shell from a much loved beach,. Trying ( I think) to take a small piece of a beautiful place and time and carry it home to see you through the more mundane  times back home. 

I am at the moment staying in Sennen on the very end of the land, in wild west Cornwall I have been inspired to paint what I can see, smell, and feel in this beautiful place. I am probably not best placed to tell anyone how to paint the sea, but I do think the more you do something the better it becomes , and this year I was more content with my attempts than ever before. I have been asked for a blog on my seascapes and so here goes...I am in no way a maritime artist but if you paint from your emotions and try to capture a bit of what you sea I think you can achieve some of what you aim for.

It is difficult when faced with views like this.

There are many ways to attempt the sea, I will describe a few here, but know the limitations of watercolour. It can only do what it can do , so think carefully and plan, what you want to paint.

In this first picture I painted the sea, by not painting it all. You  know, those days where the horizon is invisible, the sea and sky are a white/ grey colour but you know it is there.

Ok so that was a bit of a cheat to start, but this second one is only a short leap from here, I have panted the sky in Payne's grey. I use a piece of masking tape to create a line where the horizon is so I can paint right up to it . The sky here is darker than the sea, then the sea is vaguely suggested with more Paynes grey.

So the first picture is the painting, the second I have circled  where the sky meets the sea.

Ok now to get a bit more complicated , waves......yikes! a bit like clouds of the sea, they have a top a middle and a bottom. They have light and shade. i have in the past used masking fluid to retain the white of the paper ( and there is nothing wrong with that) . But in this one I just painted around the shapes, I used my fingers to smudge edges and I splashed and splattered my way through. Be very conscious of the lights and darks. I used a lot of indigo as well as some paynes grey, the more contrast you can get in there the better.I painted the sky first then the cliffs, then the waves, and at the very end I used some whit acrylic .

I have circled the parts where the waves have the most impact ( i hope) have hard and soft edges and I smudged the paint in the direction of the spray

All a lot of energy and fun....


In this third piece I was sitting on my balcony with my paints, water, kitchen roll etc and responding to what I can see


Look, look and look. The colours in the sea keep changing, and in the sky. As a rule of thumb use the same colours in the sky as the sea (the sea is a mirror of the sky)

I painted the sky and the distant headland then the sea, i wanted to have broad gestural shapes in the sea, to convey movement, then I painted around the rocks being careful to leave some white.Try to paint what you see, don't try to control yourself too much then all the feeling you have about the scene translates on the paper . I have added the lines to show my mark making.

Finally in the last piece I am showing you today, I painted the the view the other way from the one above. Here the sea had lots and lots of colour in it so I added them as I saw them. I made the most of the hillside and added some artistic license with the colours. My other mantra is " if it looks right leave it " you don't have to be too literal.

As you can see the weather changes when you are outside, and you can decide how much you change as the sky does. I also saw lovely new colours in the sea the more I looked, blues and greens so I just added them as I saw them 

So happy days remembered in paintings. i find if I have stood in a place and painted it, I never forget it, and I truly see it, a wonderful way to spend an afternoon and never ever wasted, whatever the finished result.

I have just touched on this subject I will do more at a later date, but I do urge you to have a go.


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Lots of hints on painting the water. Thank you for the inspiration! I love your paints ~


VERY IMPRESSIVE….. I am hoping to try your approach to painting water with an attitude ….waves have such individuality….daunting challenge and you have done AMAZING

Barbara Shrider

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