How to Paint a Seascape with Acrylics
When you are first beginning to paint, acrylics can be a fantastic medium to learn some of the key fundamentals that all great painters stem from.
They can be used very thinly like watercolours, and very thick impasto Iike oils, yet have the benefit of a quick-drying time and best of all you can easily overpaint some of those first mistakes.
I believe that an understanding of Classical painting principles, transferred to acrylics, will help you produce fantastic, professional looking paintings quicker than you thought possible.
- Titanium White
- Burnt Umber
- Ultramarine Blue
- (Raw umber & Titanium white for the underpainting)
Step 1. Start with a coloured ground
This is technique used by Rembrandt, Caravaggio and Da Vinci and is often overlooked when you are first coming to acrylics, especially if you have been previously working with watercolours.
All you do is mix a thin consistency of Raw umber and Titanium white and brush it onto the canvas with a decorators brush. (it doesn’t have to be Raw umber – Burnt umber or any of the earth colours work equally as well)
This helps to establish a tone that you can easily judge values with.
The tonal contrast of your painting is often more important than the colours used and this method helps you to creep up on your colours without becoming overwhelmed.
Step 2. Adding a Local Color
The first colour I use is Ultramarine blue.
This is a very useful purple blue, very handy if you are painting with a Monet style palette.
I now wash in these areas of general local colour. Notice how I am still keeping the flow loose and scrubbing the paint into the canvas. This technique has been designed so if you move on to oil paints, or have experimented with them before, the techniques work across the mediums.
Step 3. Establish the Darkest Darks
I then introduce Burnt umber, I dilute it slightly with water and wash it onto the darkest areas in the painting.
For this I’m using a number 4 size Filbert from an English company called Jackson’s art. It isn’t some magical brush, just a standard hog brush, usually used for oils.
A common mistake beginners make is using too soft a brush with acrylics when trying to create that impressionistic, ‘oil’ feel.
If you use the same brushes as oil, you are going to get a more painterly effect.
Step 4. Adding the Lightest Lights
Once the basic local colour is added, I paint on the whitest whites with pure Titanium white. The key point to remember is to invest in artist quality white. This has a much higher opacity and coverage than student grade white – so is essential with this method.
Cool and warm colours.
You can do a lot with two colours and it’s amazing how many painting techniques can be learnt by working with a limited palette.
Step 5. Building up the Layers
I then begin to work over areas of the painting I feel more confident with, using thicker paint. Still just using water to dilute the mix and the same hog hair brush. So far we have only used 2 colours and white and 1 brush.
Step 6. Introducing Warmth
To start to introduce some of the warmth to the front on the painting we now introduce some Raw sienna. This is quite a translucent pigment with not a great deal of opacity so it is great to start to wash in some of the warmth to the bay in the foreground.
Step 7. Mixing a Green
I can now use the Raw sienna to mix with the Ultramarine blue to create a muted green. This will feel too muted when you first start but it will give the painting a much more sophisticated feel.
The wrong green can quickly be your impressionistic downfall!
Step 8. Using more Impasto Paint
I then begin to build up the painting using thicker passages of paint, adjusting the colours as I go.
Step 9. Adding Detail
I start to introduce some more details using a round synthetic brush and paint in details of the boats and reflections in the foreground. This is still using an impressionistic, loose approach.
Step 10. The Limited Palette Painting
This is the painting finished in it’s first stage, I call this the Limited Palette Painting
I then begin to look at using glazing techniques and mediums to get a subtle blend with the acrylics and a more finished look.
About the Artist
I’m Will Kemp, I’m an award-winning professional artist and teacher.
Prior to painting full time I’ve worked in Museums, taught in schools, set up and ran my own gallery for 5 years and have taught hundreds of people to paint and draw.
I’ve studied Classical atelier techniques in Italy alongside conceptual art at the Tate Gallery, London.
I’ve painted in watercolours, acrylics and oils and my styles have ranged from abstract; impressionistic to realistic portraiture in order to realise my own personal style.
I’m looking forward to you joining me on your creative journey of discovery