Abstract oil paintings of the sea

Abstract oil paintings of the sea

Abstract oil paintings of the sea are, for me, a way of recreating the views I've seen over the shore. They reflect the fresh changes brought about by a new day and a new tide, revealing many beautiful visual qualities.

Looking out over the shore is a wonderfully affirming and peaceful experience. It can reconnect you with nature and the elements. It captures your attention and lets you reflect on the wild natural beauty, making you pause and reflect upon yourself.

I’ve found over the last few years of creating original abstract oil paintings of the sea and in other mediums, that the coast always attracts me as a subject, with so many ways in which you can express it.

Abstraction and the painting of water

There are certain physical similarities between paint and water. Paint can often be made to flow like water and its fluidity mirrors what you find in life – the same way that the tide washes over the sands, sculpting the beach. The continuous movement of the elements mirrors the gestures an artist makes with their brush or tool. It means you can paint in a very abstract way but also stay connected to a real world subject. It is one of the attractions seascapes hold for me as an artist.

There are also the physical processes, it’s patterns and rhythms which are interesting for an artist. The way wind, rain and the water sculpts the coast can be mirrored in the way you apply paint to the paper or canvas.

The varieties of light you find on the beach create different atmospheres and feelings which can be explored through art. The light on misty winter days compared to sunny summer days makes the coastline seem completely different. The light cast over the sea is particularly beautiful. The changing quality of light over different distances is something that inspires me to pick up my brushes and paint.

The strength of the wind also affects the coastline’s appearance. It makes it feel very different, with much more movement over the shore. The waves and clouds appear much more active.

With so much scope for expression, it is no wonder that it is a subject artist and collectors enjoy.

Painting the sea

In my abstract oil paintings, I aim to introduce minimalism and abstraction into scenes I have experienced and plan to paint, using sketches or photographs to recall the views seen out on the beach.

For me, the sea is an important subject. It allows me to have a connection to the real world while grappling with the structure, the forms and colour of the painting process. It also allows me to reconnect with the beach and the coast.

My current work expresses the beauty and power of the ocean. Focusing on the dynamic flows of water and its interactions with light, colour and texture.

I frequently use the traces of brushstroke and textures as a vital part of the finished picture, as markers of my painting process and style. I also create areas of geometric shapes and blocks of patterns within the abstract painting.

I use the alla prima method (wet into wet) to create the shapes or forms of my abstract paintings while the paint is still pliable. Over a few consecutive days, the qualities of the paint surface change, leaving creative brushwork and textures in the final picture. I am happy to keep many of these marks if they help with the painting.

I usually try to consider the whole canvas every time I work on it, blending and joining areas of paint together, moving over the surface and always considering each brushstroke within the whole.

It can sometimes be a slow process involving an accumulation of several painting layers before the final painting reaches a finished state through this process - although the result may seem spontaneous, free and immediate.

One way that these paintings convey the essence of the ocean is through form and texture. Brushstrokes, painting knife marks, even drips and splatters are used to create an impression of movement, rhythm and activity. Conversely, smooth and flowing lines and areas of flat forms may suggest calm and harmony. The broad library of artistic forms and shapes are often infused into these modern abstract paintings. Some artists use spiral shapes, simplified geometric patterns or other creative forms to express the vastness and complexity of nature.

Another way that they capture the essence of the sea is through their use of colour. I enjoy using colour a great deal and it can be quite a challenge to create a balanced painting with lovely colours. The spectrum of different blues and greens of the water, along with the whites and greys of waves, are common hues explored. These colours are artistically blended, layered, or contrasted to develop a sense of motion and depth. Warm and cool tones may be juxtaposed to express the play of light and shadows on the water, or to represent the shifting moods over the landscape.

Sometimes I select pigments which you do not normally expect to see in a seascape and I enjoy exploring the emotional qualities of them through my oil paintings.

I find working on abstract oil paintings very rewarding but it often takes up all of my nervous energy. It is a necessary and fairly intense process when you are aiming to create both harmonious and contrasting colours – especially when working with the immediacy of impasto oil paint. Each stroke has a final and irreversible impact on the outcome of the whole painting.

My work usually take me longer than I expect, leading to a relatively small output. It can feel like a tight-rope act - a performance that requires my total concentration to keep the artwork going in the right direction. There is always some element of experimentation. Some experiments end up down a creative blind alley requiring a rethink, while others seem to work better and lead towards the finished art piece.

The quality of oil paint, its physical mass, the density of colour and its natural flexibility make it a great medium for me to convey the natural beauty of the seascape from the UK coastline - expressing the light, colours, movement and patterns found out in nature.

Being abstract, one of their qualities is the obvious absence of figurative subject matter. Unlike realistic paintings of the ocean, abstract paintings of the sea do not need to show specific places. Instead, they use the language of colour, shape, form and texture to make a visual impression. They evoke and suggest qualities to the viewer. Allowing for the creation of art that is open to interpretation, and that can stir a range of emotions and associations in whoever sees it.

Artists have found many creative ways of showing the qualities of the seascape through paint especially in modern or contemporary art.

Why are abstract oil paintings so appealing?

One of their attractive aspects is their versatility. They can be shown in a variety of settings, from modern homes and workplaces to coastal resorts and galleries.

Because of their non-representational abstract subject matter, they can complement most interior decor and a wide range of color schemes. They can also be harmoniously mixed with other art forms, such as photography or sculpture, to make a multidimensional and engaging display.

They may also help to reduce stress and anxiety and have a calming effect on our mind. The shades of blue and green used in these paintings have a soothing effect on our nerves and may help us relax.

The finished artwork may positively influence the viewer. It can allow you to use your creative faculties to imagine and come up with your own interpretation and meanings. They may also act as a mood enhancer. The intricate brushstrokes, marks, textures and the varied colour palette used are visually stimulating and may help to improve our mood, make us feel more positive and uplifted.

Another benefit of abstract painting is that they can act as a tool to increase mindfulness. Observing an artwork attentively can help us focus on the present moment and be more mindful of our surroundings. This can lead to a more peaceful and centered state of mind.

Finally, they can increase our sense of connection to the environment. These paintings remind us of the beautiful and vastness of the sea. This feeling of connection can be very grounding and can promote feelings of gratitude.

Whether in a home or a public space, they can enhance creativity, imagination and promote mindfulness.

Published January 2024