Paint A Seascape With Crashing Wave In Watercolor

Rocks and a crashing wave – very typical seascape subject matter. It’s a complex scene but we’ll make it easy with large simple shapes, a simplified value composition and using very simple watercolor painting techniques!

Wave, Water and Rocks

This is typical seascape fare – waves crashing into rocks! The combination of many elements including moving water and the action of the waves makes this a complex subject. It may seem overwhelming to try to paint this in watercolor – or any medium – but, simplification is the key.

Simplification for Complex Look

We’ll start by simplifying the picture plane into large shapes that include more than one “thing” or element.  Download and take a look at the value sketch. Notice that the sky and distant water are combined into a single mid-value shape. The middle ground includes the wave, its crest the splashing water and foam from a previous wave. All elements have been combined into a single large white value shape. And finally, the foreground includes a number of individual rocks and boulders that are combined to create a large dark value shape.

Even the value sketch – without any detail at all – is evocative of an ocean wave and rocks.  The process of composing the entire picture plane with large simplified shapes is really an essential part of creating any painting of any subject – especially the complex ones.

Detail With Simple Watercolor Painting Techniques

Of course you’ll want more detail – or the illusion of detail – in your painting. We’ll acheive that mostly by creating expressive edges and textures in and around our individual elements.  How? It might be surprising to hear that our basic watercolor painting techniques – wet-into-wet, dry-in-wet, drybrush and lift techniques are all you need to create the illusion of detail!

What you’ll need

Note On The Drawing Layout

The drawing for this painting is simple and can be traced or drawn free-hand.  You’ll see that the lines on my drawing layout are fairly dark so that you can see them on the screen. But, I recommend drawing them lightly since we will be using mostly light colors and values in this painting.  It isn’t a big problem if the pencil lines show through a watercolor painting, but sometimes they are distracting.

What you’ll need

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Related Lessons

Value and Color Studies

color value sketch for a simple seascape scene in watercolorThis lesson is two lessons in one. The first creates a (mostly) value sketch for this seascape scene above using a couple very basic watercolor painting techniques.

The second uses the same techniques but is a color study. The focus is really on capturing the designed values while working with color.

These two steps are important but often avoided steps in the composition process.  Following a lesson like this helps integrate separate ideas and encourages a conscious approach to painting and composing. Plus it’ll have you confident and ready to paint the seascape painting above.

Seascape Painting Lessons