Painting the Sea and Other Visual Memories

by Lisa


       I got a question recently from a young girl who was interested in painting the sea, and she wanted my advice. My gutteral response was to tell her to run, don’t walk in the direction of land, and never look back. But I had to play the intrepid all-knowing teacher and oblige her youthful naivete. I first told her to go and watch the ocean for a very long time. To take a sketch pad and try to sketch the waves, and finally to take many many pictures. I thought about this poor girl’s parents watching their child sit for hours staring at the sea in a state of detached contemplation, while they wondered if she was going postal on them. I even carried the thought process further as my vivid and neurotic imagination tends to do, and imagined them finding my email in her computer, and then the link to our not-so-humble blog (hey, they could have used the ol’ parental control system)

       In otherwords, if you paint the sea, you have to be good at developing visual memory. Try the exercise of putting a still life in one room and painting in another room. Here’s another good one: set up shop in your bathroom, make something special to go in the toilet (you know what I mean),  and then paint it as it flushes.

       Gawd I hope that girl doesn’t read this.

This entry was posted in Art Instruction, Painting, Plein Air, Sea Painting, Tips. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Painting the Sea and Other Visual Memories

  1. Very nice. I like the way the wave is folding into itself and being at eye level with the wave crests in the background.

  2. ivdanu says:

    I envy you Lisa (shameless!) for your sea painting… so well composed, so true and so pure (the white “ecume” – I don`t remember the English term…) Of course, your visual memory must be great… or you take a lot of pictures (which are what can replace that visual memory; that`s what I do, usually…)

    I wonder how painters like Aivazovsky (a XIX century russian artist specialized in sea landscapes; he did some awesome things!) whom did not have – I suppose – a lot of photographical “help” manage to peint his paintings, very detailed and looking truthful…He must have had a awesome visual memory…and rapidity of the brush…

  3. Dianne Mize says:

    Good move. It’s always been sort of a thorn in my flesh those folks who ask how to, seeming to expect a magic formula-loaded wand will wave over their canvas and make a grand painting. Shall we blame the TV painters?

    And a fine painting you’ve made, too.

  4. It is a lovely painting and makes me feel like I’m at the ocean… can almost hear those waves rolling in. So does that work to hear the ocean when you put your ear to the back of the canvas like putting a seashell over your ear?

  5. 01varvara says:

    Hmm… the local Russian checks in. Aivazovsky was the official painter for the Russian Fleet and went on many voyages. Therefore, he had plenty of observation. Lisa… I put up one of Aivazovksy’s most famous on “Art and Faith”, it’s “The Billowing Sea”, and you can almost SMELL the salt spray.

    Rybanaya solyanka (a Russian fish soup) anyone? Goes good with vodka…


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