I've had a number of pm's asking how to paint ocean scenes, mainly water. I thought I would share some observations and an example. There are many artists on WC who have mastered this topic and are extremely talented, have far more experience than what I'll be sharing and if you go to their personal website you'll see gorgeous paintings.
Hopefully the information below will help you get started - it's only my opinion. I'm not an expert in this area, but I've struggled enough in my quest to learn how to paint this subject matter that I have some things to pass along. Don't hesitate to ask any questions, chime-in with your own comments, etc.. We are here to help or receive help to broaden our artist abilities. Truth be told, I need all the help I can get and am eternally grateful for the unselfish assistance that has been given to me over the past eight months by many people on this website. I have a long ways to go as there are many nuances to learn about OP painting, but I'd like to share a few things that have started to make my learning process just a bit easier. Hopefully it will do the same for you. Thanks - Mary
The Marine section on WC is a treasure-trove of information pertaining to this topic. For one they have a e-book "thread" they've put together (free of charge) that is very well done and covers everything from constructing waves, to painting boulders and cliffsides.
It's an excellent reference that you can download.
The Marine section has a thread w/tons of reference images.
Excellent source of inspiration.
The Marine section has a thread that lists well-known Marine artist whose work is extraordinary.
Well worth a look, not only for a review of their work, but because some of them have books/DVDs that you can purchase for a reasonable price and learn a great deal (and apply the techniques to oil pastels even though they are discussed for other mediums).
Many techniques can be translated for painting with OPs, it's a matter of thinking about a point that an instructor or artist may be trying to drive home and then applying it in practice. The point here is to practice, practice, and more practice.
I've spent many hours doing just that, concentrating on one area at a time like waves, rocks/boulders, etc. on scrap pieces of paper w/OPs. Taking information that I've accumulated either in books, on the internet or this site and applying it to paper. It's not a fun process, but I don't know how else to learn a subject matter that I really want to get much better at (that's what I'm currently doing with my Marsh series now, learning how to paint convincing short Marsh grass). In the end it's worth it, because a discovery process usually takes place.
Block out the painting (from sky/clouds, waves, landmass, rocks/boulders, right to the sand) on your support surface. This acts as a guide, especially for building waves, breakers, etc. Leave the areas that will be the brightest (tops of breakers, etc.) white-blank so that when you do paint them nothing will interfere w/illustrating the highest values.
Be sure the horizon line is straight.
When painting ocean water from the middle-to-horizon don't be afraid to put down many layers of paint on your support.
You are trying to get a smooth almost buttery consistency so that you can munipulate/blend the OP paint.
A "wow" factor in ocean paintings, come from showing deep - clear water. Use the lowest value in the hue to illustrate deep water in your painting, don't blend with white or other hues higher in value. If you do you'll lose that look of deep water. This allows more contrast w/n the water.
Don't do wave details until you have your base of the waves and water layered in. If you don't wait, you'll end up having to work around your highlights and then finding the nearest tool to scrap the paint off and start over. In otherwords you'll muddy up your hues. Use your highlights - the highest value, for the sea foam - white caps. Color here would depend on the time of day and atmosphere.
When painting rough waves sea foam wake - you can use the same techniques used with other mediums to construct your waves. Here is the difference w/OP. When painting rough water with OPs try this method. Once you get paint layered in skim the OP paint over the surface lightly and you'll see it drag. Now begin to look for patterns in the paint, in otherwords - look what the OP leaves in its wake, a pattern that you can work with as if it's sea foam lines and patterns that you would normally see in the ocean. I love this part of painting the ocean - the patterns are there you only need to look.
Personally I struggle with large waves, breakers and sea foam. I have found it takes tremendous patience and concentration to get it convincing to the viewer. Sometimes it comes out decent and other times, I wonder - what the heck did I do? Again, trial and error.
Here is a step-by-step example of a painting that I did from a reference photo found on the Marine section. 11x 14 on gessoed hardboard.