Painting a Beach Scene – Some Very Helpful Tips

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One of the most popular subjects at art classes are beach scenes to paint. Learning how to paint a beach scene can be done in several ways. The easiest of course is painting a calm day at the beach. For the more adventurous artist, a rough storm beach may be the task at hand. Here are some basic tips to help you learn how to paint a beach scene.

Painting the Sky

In general, you should start any landscape or seascape painting with the sky. Examine various pictures or other paintings to determine how you would like your sky to appear. The sky and water can meet anywhere on the canvas. If the horizon line is lower on the canvas, the sky will be the emphasis, likewise, if the horizon line is high on the canvas, there will be more water, and this will be the emphasis. I like to keep the top portion of the sky the darkest and lighten as I worked downward. As you paint, bring the sky colors down beneath where the horizon line or ocean will start. And tiny touches of reds, yellows, dark blues, or oranges to add interest and drama to the sky. Sometimes simply allowing streaks of color to show will appear as if they are the distant clouds. If you don’t know how to paint white fluffy clouds than just let the sky remain plain. Many people try to blend their colors so that no lines or variation shows. This is a mistake. A viewer will look at the painting because it interests them. So be aware that you should not try to blend and smooth your sky colors too much. Remember that the more colors and “movement” in the sky, the more turbulent the weather will appear.

Painting the Water

Now it is time to paint the water in your beach scene. Always use the same colors in the water as you used in the sky. You will want to darken the colors however. Starting at the horizon line, paint in a straight horizontal horizon. The straighter this top edge of water, the more distant it will appear. Now work your water forward, adding and varying the colors. Mix in some greens, browns and even touches of reds. Use the same combination of sky colors, just use more of them. Remember not to over blend the colors. Also for the perception of depth, remember that objects, even waves, will appear smaller and more horizontal in the distance. Therefore any roughness or waves will be smaller in the background and enlarge as you work forward. For the appearance of shallow water lighten the colors by adding yellows.

Painting the Beach

The easiest way to begin a beach is to add browns to the water area as you approach where the land begins. Remember that water is transparent so begin to add the sand color while decreasing the blue water color. Now you should be almost to the bottom or front of the canvas. If you start adding white to the sand color it will appear that the sand is moist. I like to use loose long vertical “z” strokes with some white as I complete my final areas of the beach. Work this beach color right to the bottom of the canvas.

Waves, Rocks and Final Touches

Waves can be indicated by adding small choppy strokes of dark and or light colors. Variety is the key when it comes to indicating that water is in motion. If you want to create some dramatic movement of waves, you might want to add some white wave tops by dabbing spots of white in wave shapes near the front of the painting where the water would be hitting land or rocks. To add rocks, paint some dark “rock” forms near the front of the canvas. Keep the bottom of the rocks nice and horizontal. Lighten the dark rock color and highlight each rock, but be careful not to paint over all of the base color. If you need to highlight that color even more, touch on some final bright highlights wherever the light might be the brightest on the rock. Gently dab white here and there around the rock bases or where water would be splashing. Straight lines of white at the base of the rocks give the indication of water and help to “set” the rock nicely into the painting.

If you keep practicing using these tips you are sure to be able to paint a beach scene in no time. In the beginning, keep it simple and paint a calm day beach scene. As you become more experienced, add drama by using more color and stroke variety. Have fun practicing these beach scenes to paint.



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