Paintings of the sea

When I paint original oil paintings of the sea on canvas, as well as watercolour paintings of the sea, I have in mind the serenity and natural beauty of the coastal landscape before me. Including the free, expansive body of ocean stretching out to the horizon. All these elements include a wide spectrum of movements, from shimmering waves to the movement of the currents, the cycle of cloud forms and the changing of the weather.

These artworks can serve as visual focal points in our homes, offices and public spaces. Providing a contrast between the man-made environment and an artistic representation of the shore. Adding tranquility and serenity to the surroundings. They can bring the beauty of the ocean indoors, allowing viewers to maintain a connection to nature even in an urban environment.

Many individuals find solace and inspiration in the outdoors and original paintings can serve as a wonderful reminder of the seashore and its importance in our lives.

Paintings of the sea
Detail from Bright tide

Why create original paintings of the sea?

The attraction of expressing water for someone, an artist, who grew up on the coast can be very strong. If you’ve ever moved away from a particular place you have a strong connection to, this may be familiar to you.

For me, when the sea is absent I start to feel something is missing. So, I’ve found it’s a subject I turn to first.

When making a painting of the sea, there is so much there to explore. Nearly every visit to the coast reveals an original arrangement of water, sand and sky. You also see the beach in different light each time. You notice the mood and configuration of the waves which suggest fresh compositions.

The light, textures and atmosphere of the coast and its landscape suit the creative medium of painting very well. Allowing the artist to interpret the seascape in different ways.

Over the years I've steadily tried to add originality to my seascapes. Some of these touches include minimalism, abstract colour, textures and gradients.

With visits to the same place, the interest for me is in exploring feelings from all the information I’ve experienced, and concretize these into an artwork.

It is great to be reminded of the shore and the feeling of space, the beautiful colours and movement on a grand scale.

We often give it a symbolic or metaphoric power when we think about it. The open beach vista may represent the vastness of the unknown, the ebb and flow of life, or the transformative power of nature. It can stir a range of emotions, from a relaxation and calm to feelings of awe and wonder. Importantly, it can offer a pictorial escape from the stresses of daily life.

Artist notes

The coast is a rich world of inspiration. It’s a subject I have to travel to and although I haven’t been surrounded by it all the time, it’s perhaps because of the its absence that it becomes especially meaningful when encountered again.

The perpetual changes and the fluid surfaces impart a quality of freshness. A new view to see and feel. The minimal, simple scape of sea, sky and land are so directly appealing. The patterns in the water and it's ever changing shapes underpinned by natural order still fascinate and surprise.

It also seem to hold many mysteries in its silent motion. Remaining a frontier where the human cannot look into the silent deep or exist easily, if at all.

It ignites artistic fascination in me, particularly when you are close to the tide, because it never sits still and is in constant motion, seemingly wild. Yet zoom out a bit and it is still definable as a blue rectangle against rectangles of sky.

I am attracted to this minimal structure, the compositional framework, almost as an architect of paint. I find myself taking pleasure in the construction of a composition before fulfilling, what I see as its content. I enjoy this perception and prefer a direct, simple, but meaningful method of painting. I reduce views to their essence and stop when I have painted what I wanted to share as clearly as I can.

The fluctuations in weather and sea conditions on each visit through the seasons develop kaleidoscopes of views ready to be noticed and implemented. These blueprints hint at the expressive potential for future paintings which explore the set of conditions and moods.

Often it’s the atmosphere that is noticeable to me and which spurns an original painting. Over the last few years, sunset or late light has made a lasting impression on me. I am drawn to these moments perhaps because they are quieter, calmer and I find more peace in them.

A painting embodies time and place. I also love the wide spaces available out on the sands and is another aspect I enjoy depicting it in my work and portraying its physical scale. By keeping to essential, minimal forms in a painting, the extra space created lets the eye rest and gives you the viewer space to ‘breathe’.

They also captures movement and for me, motion is often depicted through the speed of the brushstroke or groups of shapes painted in sequence, such as clouds or white waves.

One distinguishing feature of one my regular subjects, Lytham St Annes beach in Lancashire, is that it is so flat and often the tide is very far out. Sometimes in the summer it is so distant that I tend to view it from afar and so I notice less wave action. Often, it is the clouds which show it the most. Sometimes it is in the patterns in the sand.

Having a close connection to this subject, I am aware that the artistic results are mostly a reflection of myself. I feel the peace and calm I’ve experienced (or sometimes I would like to be able to experience) while looking out to the horizon is also worth sharing with you and others.

I hope it is a worthwhile pursuit showing these qualities in contemporary paintings of the sea available today.

Published June 2023