Aivazovsky created a mood of mystery and grandeur by leaving some areas of the painting obscured in mist or shadow. He knew where to add detail, and where to leave it out; where to be crisp, and where to be vague.
Occasionally it's worth breaking the 'oils only' theme of this blog to look at some watercolours. These watercolours by the French illustrator Edmund Dulac are for Shakespeare's marine-themed play The Tempest. Watercolour is great for creating nebulous, marbled or bleeding effects to add texture and mystery, especially in backrounds. Similar effects can be achieved with oil paint highly diluted with a solvent such as turpentine or mineral spirit. But beware of the health hazards of breathing solvent fumes. Open windows and use a fan to disperse the fumes, or work outdoors in a breeze. Paint drips are fashionable in contemporary painting, but if you want to avoid them, keep the canvas horizontal when using diluted paint.
Cherry Hood, an Australian artist who won the country's most prestigious portrait prize a few years ago, paints with watercolour on large canvases. This avoids the health issues of using solvents but she has to seal the pigment with vanish because there's no glass to protect it. She uses damar varnish, which presumbly would have to be applied as a spray, brushing it on would smear the watercolour. I would guess there are health issues with spraying varnish too, but the process would be fairly quick and you could wear a mask.
The shapes of the boats are interesting in themselves, but also the shape of the space between them. It's an interesting exercise to compose a painting with the spaces between objects in mind. Paying attention to the "negative space" around objects is a good way of making sure you are drawing or painting the real shapes of objects, rather than the mind's stored, habitual preconception of what a boat or a wave looks like. In the composition of paintings, spaces between objects are just as important as the shapes of the objects themselves.
In these two works, the German seascape painter German Grobe has filled the narrow space between two boats with bright foam, helping to make the negative space an element in its own right.
A common mistake is to leave to much boring empty space around the objects in a composition so that the negative spaces are lost. The work above shows a good balance between positive shapes and negative spaces. In the work below, Grobe has decided to make the space outweigh the objects, which gives a sense of the sea's power over the fishing boats. The complex textures in the waves and reflective sand make the relatively large space around the objects interesting enough to avoid the problem of lost negative space.
To paint the sea, you must love it, and to love it, you must know the sea. - Frederick Judd Waugh
About this Blog
CLICK ON IMAGES TO VIEW LARGER
This blog is intended as a reference resource for seascape painters (particularly those working in oils) and for art lovers. It's a mix of nautical/maritime art, seascapes and coastal scenes, both old and new. The blog is of a non-profit, educational nature; however, if you are the owner of an image and would like it removed, please advise in a comment to the post. Add comments by clicking on the word 'comments' under a post.
Copyright of images of paintings on this blog are usually held by the artist or owner and are not generally in the public domain.
A large proportion of the artists are from the US simply because their work seems to be easier to find on the internet, and perhaps the genre is more popular there, but suggestions of famous painters from other countries (and for the blog in general) are welcome.
Apologies if a link to an artist's or gallery's website has been inadvertantly omitted. If you are interested in seeing more, or purchasing, work by any of the artists on this site, google their full name in inverted commas, with perhaps the word 'paintings' or 'artist' and it should take you to their site or the site of a gallery representing them.
If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry