HOW TO PAINT A WATERCOLOR BEACH SUNSET
Some beach sunsets are seared into your soul—like this breezy and soft explosion of dreamy hues. Let’s pair purposeful flow with varied elements (color, texture, and composition) to create a perfect moment in paradise.
Reprinted with permission from Stunning Watercolor Seascapes by Kolbie Blume, Page Street Publishing Co. 2022. Photo credit: Kolbie Blume.
BRUSHES Round #16, Round #10, Round #2
COLOR PALETTE Opera Rose, Prussian Blue, Yellow Ochre, Payne’s Gray, Burnt Umber, White Gouach
THE SKY Before you start painting, take a minute to mix some of the colors for the sky. Combine Opera Rose and Prussian Blue to make a violet color, then mix Yellow Ochre with Opera Rose to make an orange-pink color. Then, create the base layers for the sky and the ocean using the wet-on-wet technique. Lay down a wash of clean water across the whole page, and paint with light (watery) value of violet across the top of the sky.
Then, paint with the orange-pink color across the bottom of the sky, landing at about the center of the page. Use water and more watery paint to lightly blend the violet and orange and pink together in a gradient. Finally, paint the bottom of the paper, where the ocean will be, a light value of orange-pink, with a few light zigzag strokes on the left side to provide a base for future waves.
Let this layer dry completely, then repeat with some slightly darker-value paints (a little more pigmented, but still light). This time, when blending the violet with the orange-pink color, use more flowy strokes to create a billowy cloud effect. Paint a few orange-pink strokes in the violet color, and vice versa, for a luminous, colorful blend. While the page is still wet, use the same slightly darker value of orange and pink to paint a few more loose waves on the left side of the ocean. The beach will go on the right side, which is why we're only painting the ocean on the left.
THE OCEAN Now, let’s focus on the ocean. While your paper is still damp from the previous step, add a little more pigment to the orange-pink mix to make a darker value, and then paint a few smaller waves, using the thin-thick-thin stroke. Because the paper is damp, the waves should keep their shape while still being a little blurry. If some of the waves start bleeding into spider tendrils on the paper, use the thirsty brush technique to smooth them out on the paper.
Clean your brush, then blot it on a towel to remove all the excess water. Then, use the damp brush lightly around the tendrils to smooth them out and re-form the wave shapes. Repeat with a few Yellow Ochre waves for added color depth. If you're not sure where to put the waves, try fitting them together like puzzle pieces, starting at the top, then using the spaces between the waves to fit the next layer, and so on. Remember that the ocean is a wild place, so imperfection is realistic!
Let that layer dry completely, then rewet just the ocean portion. Use violet along the horizon, where the ocean meets the sky, and loosely down the center of the ocean, adding a few waves with small thin-thick-thin strokes before widening the violet area toward the bottom of the page. Add a little Payne’s Gray to the violet mix, making a darker violet, and add a few thin-thick-thin waves to the bottom of the page—ideally while the page is still wet. Let everything dry, then use the dry brush technique with the darker violet to paint a few light lines and textures just along the horizon of the ocean. At this point, the ocean should have a lot of different colors of waves blending together, with larger waves closer to the bottom, and smaller waves along the horizon.
STEP THREE: THE BEACH Now, mix some Yellow Ochre into your dark violet until you get a kind of violet-brown color. Yellow and violet are complementary colors, so they make brown when you mix them. Then, paint an outline of the beach. Start with a loose, rough squiggle moving up the page until just below the horizon, then veer right in a straight line for the shore to meet the horizon. Let dry, then mix a slightly darker brown color with Yellow Ochre, Payne’s Gray, and Opera Rose. Paint several lines in the sand, moving down the beach. The lines should look more like squiggles, growing smaller and tighter the farther up the beach they are. Let the paper dry.
Finally, add a little Burnt Umber and more Payne’s Gray to the mix to make an even darker brown color, and paint a loose, squiggly shadow along the top of the beach.
THE PALM TREES Next, blend a mixture of Burnt Umber and Payne’s Gray to make a black color to paint the outlines of the palm tree silhouettes. Start with the trunks, slightly curved as if they’re bending in the wind. The back tree should be a little smaller than the foreground tree, to give the piece depth.
Then, paint outlines for where the palm fronds will go, again painting as if the palm trees are swaying in the wind. Then, use a small detail brush to fill out the palm fronds with thin lines coming down from the outline previously painted, keeping in mind that the wind is coming from the left side, so the trees should flow accordingly, with most of the fronds facing to the right.
THE DETAILS Lastly, add a few details. Use the black color to paint a few blades of grass coming up beside the trees and to paint a dock along the beach. To make the dock look realistic, make sure the legs farther out in the water are shorter (because more of them are covered by the water). Paint small squiggles just beneath each leg for an easy reflection in the water. Use white gouache to paint a small moon off to the left side of the sky, then add a few small zigzag squiggles to the ocean to reflect the moon, and finally, paint several birds of varying shapes and sizes around the moon.
Credit: Reprinted with permission from Stunning Watercolor Seascapes by Kolbie Blume, Page Street Publishing Co. 2022. Photo credit: Kolbie Blume.
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