Less Is More

Ever since I began teaching, I get a lot of students who want to paint the beach and seagrass, so I feel it’s time to have a chat about both of those.

Painting a beach scene can seem like a simple painting, but you would be surprised at how difficult it can be to choose the right colors to create the sand. In my painting Timber Island, I used more cool colors to create the effect I wanted. I used Cobalt for both the sky and the water, making sure I darkened the water close to the island by adding a touch of sepia to show depth. My sand is a mixture of burnt umber with a touch of sepia. For lighter areas, I used more water to lighten the color, while for darker sand I added a bit more sepia. I then put a wash of sepia, burnt umber, and a touch of orange in the foreground where my seagrass is and gave it time to dry.

While I gave my sand and seagrass time to dry, I added my islands using the same colors as the seagrass just without the orange. I added a touch of green to the trees on the islands and kept my trees lighter at the tops where the sun hits. Once I tackled the larger areas, I then transitioned my focus to the islands. Remember, a watercolor painting is a layering of colors, so painting the large areas is a must as you’re getting all your washes in.

Once my colors were where I wanted them I started working on the seagrass. In Timber Island, I took the less is more approach. I was very pleased with the washes on the sand and water as they gave the subtle effect I was looking for, so I continued that effect into the seagrass. When my washes dried, there were waterlines so I decided to integrate them into the painting by painting into them and adding wisps of grass with a very small pointed brush. As less is more, I did not paint into it too much.

Is it finished? That’s always a big question. Do my values achieve what I’m looking for in this painting? Starting out I wanted subtle and soft with a touch of needed depth. The darks in the seagrass added depth and balance. Remember values and perspective are everything. My biggest pointer is to pay attention to your values.

Happy painting, 

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