Thursday, March 25, 2010

About seascape painting.


The above painting is by Fredrick Waugh. Waugh was Americas finest seascape painter (in my opinion). There is seascape before Waugh, and that looks one way, and seascape after Waugh and that looks another way. No one paints seascape seriously today without having looked long and hard at Waugh. When I refer to seascape I generally mean surf pictures. Pictures where the sea meets the shore.
There were other painters who painted the sea, Homer was more artistic but Waugh did so much of it and so little of everything else that I think he gets the medal. William Trost Richards is another, here's a Richards below.

Making seascapes is generally done in the studio. Studying seascapes outside provides the raw materials. One of the reasons for this is that painters often want to show the surf from a position down in the action, that often gives exciting lines and perspectives. It also would require the artist to be set up in a place where the incoming wave will smash over him and his equipment.
lot of seascape painting is abstract. A seascape is as close to abstract painting as traditional painting gets. The sea obeys certain rules, it has an anatomy, but that still leaves lots of room for arrangement.

Copying photographs of the sea doesn't work as well as you might think . The anatomy of the sea needs to be expressed, like the anatomy in a figure. In order to paint the sea effectively you need to be able to show you know how it works. My old friend Charles Vickery used to call that hydraulics. I will begin laying out some of that anatomy in tomorrows post.

21 comments:

DennyHollandStudio said...

Bring it on, Stape, I'm into this series of posts...

Gregory Becker said...

I cant wait to hear more about this subject. Those are two inspirational examples of seascapes you provided.

billspaintingmn said...

I've lived all my life in Minnesota
so I'm familiar with water,(Land of 10,000 lakes)
Lake Superior is said to have tidal action, and I've watched the waves roll in.
But it wasn't till I went to Maui
Hawaii that I experienced surf.
The power was awsome. Beautiful. I
painted it straight away.
I stayed there briefly, several times.
I have a book on Fredrick Waugh, and I agree, he shows you that he knows his subject.
To me The ocean is a mystery. If I
paint it, it would be from that perspective.
My first art exhibit where I painted and sold paintings was in Lahaina, under the banyan tree.
It was encouraging, and an experience I value greatly.
If I can get wisdom about painting
seascapes, from you, I'll call 'em
'SEASTAPES'
It has been a dream of mine to paint surf, to paint it well.

willek said...

"SEASTAPES"!!! Terrific word there, Bill.

Keep it coming. Stape, I am all ears. I love doing seascapes for all the reasons you mention. But I especially like being out there to do them and always to start them. Something about taking something out of all the movement and making something out of all that churn. A bright sunny day with big waves and some clouds is the best, but is hard to come by. Of all the book I gatheredd, I like Jack Coggins, "A Marine Painter's Guide." Chapter 5, Painting Water, has a concise explanation of waves and water that I thought was pretty good. But I am still a beginner at this, and you are coming up with revelations that are new to me.

Woodward Simons said...

Stape, thanks for taking the time to find images to go along with your blog.

I'm a big fan of William Trost Richards - because he painted in watercolor as well as oils (and I mostly paint in watermedia).

Don't know as much about Waugh, I'll have to look him up. Thanks!!!

Jim Nolan said...

Given that I live on the shore of Narragansett Bay I too am greatly interested in seascape paainting. There are several large .Trost Richard paintings in the Newport Art Museum and in Vareika gallery also in Newport.
I purchase two books recently; the first is Paint the Sea in Oils by E. John Robinson which I found to be very helpful. It is available on Amazon. The second is one I found on alibris, published in 1975, called How to Paint Successful Seascapes by Roger Curtis. I wonder if you have any thoughts on these two books particularly the Curtis book since you and he have a similar Rockport experience.
I am greatly appreciative of your altruistic contributions throughout your blog.

Deb said...

Coming from Texas, I wasn't aware there was an ocean out there. Where do the cows live?
These are so fabulous. Can't wait to dissect some waves... do they have a pancreas too?
We're down in Virginia this weekend... their spring is at least a month ahead of ours.... trees are blooming! But no ocean.

Jeremy Elder said...

This is going to be good! I hopefully can apply this to my home beaches some day.

Jan Blencowe said...

Eagerly looking forward to this! I grew up on the Atlantic coast but for 2 decades have lived on the edge of the sound, which like a bay has no real waves to speak of with the possible exception of a nor'easter or a hurricane blowing through.

The abstract nature of the sea I find absolutely intriguing like clouds and stormy skies.

Philip Koch said...

That's probably the best Waugh I've ever seen and the Richards oil is pretty good too.

It's funny as I grew up on the shore of Lake Ontario just outside of Rochester, New York where there were heavy waves lots of the time. Yet I find myself always attracted to still waters and the abstract patterns made by ripples v.s. patches of smooth reflective water. Go figure... Guess it just comes down to finding whatever it is that excites your imagination and making a go with that.

kev ferrara said...

Seastapes is good!

I call his funnier posts "Stapletoons."

Stapleton Kearns said...

Denny:
This is going to be a lot of work!
.................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Bill:
That has been a dream of mine too. I will let you know if I get there.
...............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Willek:
I have that book too. I am going to recommend some others too.
...................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Woodward:
I will be showing more.
....................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Jim;
I will address that on the other side of the gossamer wall of comment paucity.
...........Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Deb:
Just set down the pancreas and listen. Gee Whiz!
..........Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Jeremy;
And the sun actually sets behind your waves out there! That is major!
....Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Jan;
When I lived on the Penobsccot Bay it was the same deal.
...................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Philip;
The whole show is a composition machine.
................Stape

Carol Nelson said...

I grew up on the shores of Lake Superior, which can get pretty violent at times, but does not compare to big surf on the coast.
I am reading your seascape posts with great interest and appreciate the thought you put into them.
You're the bee's knees Stape(I think that's a compliment.