The watercolor sea

Painting the sea in Watercolor

Sometimes a landscape can seem almost monochrome when everything leans towards a single tone. This wild stretch of the coast under a stormy sky is an important issue. Deep blues and greens: the challenge is to capture the subtlety and diversity of this limited color gamut.

Watercolor and mixed sea painting

Indigo, French overseas, ftalo blue and ftalo green make up the cold colors of this painting. To these will be added Alizarin Crimson and Quinacridone Gold to give a warm contrast to our predominantly cold palette.

White gouache and burnt sienna ink were also used.


The theme of this painting is this wild strip of coastline under a menacing and stormy sky.


A quick sketch with a thin marker prepares the composition before applying the paint to the paper.


After slightly drawing the composition on the paper, apply an Ultramarine wash to the ocean area around the horizon, avoid it and break it where the waves break over the rocks.

Use a mixture of Phthalo Blue and Phthalo Green to intensify the color of the water in front of the rocks. Keep the white paper to paint more waves. This theme is based on tonal contrast, so preserving white paper is essential.

Add a little more Ultramarine below where the rocks are and re-strengthen the blue/green of the waves.

Apply a warm, pale wash of Quinacridone Gold and Alizarin throughout the foreground area and let dry before painting the rocks.

The rocks are a mixture of Alizarin, Quinacridone Gold and Ultramarine. As the pigment is applied, it adjusted the tone by adding water and varies the color by dropping more pigment into the wet paint. Dropping the pigment creates unpredictable bleeds and runs that add interest to the rocks.

While drying the rocks, add another Indigo wash in the sky and diffuse it a soft, dry brush. Using a dry brush you absorb moisture and move the pigment to keep everything under control.

More layers of Indigo and Phthalo Blue in the sky and over the water. Add some reflections to the damp sand under the rocks.

Wash the Phthalo Blue and Phthalo Green areas from the foreground and then, still wet, add a white gouache over that region. Add more rocks when the paper is dry.

Sprinkle some white gouaché on the breaking waves. Use the burn siena ink to add details and avoid it with a little water.

The sky darkens again, and while it’s wet, it drops more White Water into the breaking waves. Finally add pure Ultramarine to the rocks to soothe warm browns.

It’s great fun to experiment with these monochrome themes, especially when combining watercolor, gouache and ink. All kinds of unexpected reactions produce results that are not completely under your control.
The reaction between Indigo and White’s scourge creates fantastic bleeding and plumage, while a dry Hake Brush can transform a rough, textured area into a smooth, smooth mist with a few strokes.

A similar approach and the same color scheme were used in these two paintings.

Tidal watercolor, breaking waves and storm sea
Antarctic iceburg watercolor

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