Monday, April 5, 2010

The patterns in the foam from a spent wave

Here's another Waugh of that terminal moment when the hammer hits the anvil and shatters into whipped cream. In the foreground is water from the previous wave running off of the rocks. That little passage is the backwash. After the wave breaks, the water returns to the sea in a lot of different ways.

Here is the most common, the foam has collapsed and formed a blanket over the water. Its surface is broken into holes by the movement of the water. Many seascape painters have spent a lot of effort analyzing this effect. Here is a close up of the middle of the above picture.

The holes in the water are separated from and decorated by those stringy lines and thin bands of foam. Painting these holes will reveal the form of the water beneath and establish perspective and movement in your foreground. It is also hard to do well. E. John Robinson, who's book I recommended uses a lot of these effects in his painting. Noted the perspected ovoids with the squared off sides that occur in the foam at this stage. There are also repeated lines in there. The "strings" and borders of the ovoid holes aren't random but trail backwards in the direction of the receding water. The foam around these holes is lumpy and takes light and shadow as its thickness varies.

As the foam recedes into the middle ground it is captured by the next rising swell and carried up its face which stretches those holes even more. Notice in the shot above how the water on the spill of this wave turns opaque as it becomes aerated on the way down. Then it hits the base of the wave and turns to foam. From the top to the bottom of that water there are three stages.
  • The first, at the turn of the form is the color of the seawater and may have a dark edge at its top. Notice the slight "humpyness" that the top displays.
  • The middle stage the falling water is beginning to aerate and goes white or gray as it becomes opaque.
  • The last stage is the violent conversion to foam which bounces and dances on the surface of the undulating sea ahead of the incoming wave. The individual globs of this foam are streamlined back towards their origin. These gobs of foam are in clusters and increase in size from the point of their impact ( in this example to the right ). In some places the foam is more advanced towards the viewer and in some places it has fallen behind. There is usually a firm shadow beneath it.


Unknown said...

A little trick for detailed foam patterns is using a rigger, but cut the end of the brush flat so there is no point.

E. John liked filberts a lot too, but Loren never used them as far as I know.

Following is a link to a painting that's been selling for years in Haddad's:

Not a true seascape by some definitions, but a good example of how well done stylized foam can really make a painting.

vivien said...

a good series of posts on waves and foam behaviour :>)

It's essential to study the wave forms like this or the sea just looks totally unbelievable

The kind of coastline has a huge effect as well - I paint Cornwall a lot, which is rocky like your examples - I also paint on the North Norfolk coast - long flat beaches, dunes and saltmarsh and the tide goes out a looooong way. The waves aren't as transparent because of the mud from farmland in the water, the sea is shallow for a long way, so waves are far less dramatic - the interesting subject there is the reflecting pools of water and damp sand,

barbara b. land of boz said...

Stapleton, Your photos of the wave action are really good. It backs up your explanation of what the wave is doing.

Thank you for taking time out of your already VERY busy day to write
this post. While I don't live near the water, I can see the process of the wave.

Have a Moxie........You have earned one!!

barbara b.

jade said...

thanks so much for these posts! I'm going to the shore to paint for a week this summer, and with all this info, how can I go wrong?


Well, I'm not a seascape painter but will certainly be trying some because of your wonderful art lessons. It's a good time to tell you that I follow your blog everyday and really appreciate you.

Unknown said...

Great photos, excellent explanations.
I am learning lots.
Am hoping to get to Rockport later this week, and weather permitting, would like to set up and paint after seeing Todd's show there. Any suggestions for location?? Not sure I'm ready to just go paint surf yet.. though these posts have certainly inspired me to try!

willek said...

Lots of meat and potatoes in this posting. You are getting to the good part

Love the Waugh leading this post. At the International show I was surprised to see that the brown shadows in the foreground rocks were Waugh's underpainting. No retouch needed with piles of paint in the lights. Looks similar to this picture.

billspaintingmn said...

Such good information here.
Stape! You know you're a good teacher when the class clown,(me) studies to get an A...
I can use much of this info to capture the look of the turbulance
at the bottom of St.Anthony Falls
(next to nicollet Island, Mpls.)
It's running full boar right now!
Also Minnehaha Falls!
So this info is good for turbulant water too! (there's plenty of foam, and white water, and these other bullets you're covering!)

Stapleton Kearns said...

I hope that works on old sables. I am reluctant to chop a new one.
I never use filberts, I am on flats. But they wear in to filberts.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I want to paint there! How lucky you are. Have you ever painted in Seago land?

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you. My day IS busy alright. All I do is work, I hardly get to sleep sometimes. Deadlines. Hate em!

Stapleton Kearns said...

I think you will need most of that week to master this, I don't know......Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you; I'm wicked nice.....
some others.....
they're not so nice.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Downtown, Bradley wharf or Lumber wharf, maybe the the headlands.
Halibut point for surf.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Some Waughs are like that, others are not. He painted the ocean in every possible manner. I do like the way he did that those I think he toned whole passages like that.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I was sometimes the class clown too.
I know all of those places. Is Nicolett island still good or did they build it. It used to be real funky down there.

billspaintingmn said...

Stape, my studio is only a couple
blocks down on 1st ave. So I stroll
down there often.
Yes, it's still funky, and the block party happens every year.
The place with the Tee-Pee (tent)
still has a chicken coop with roosters, always crowing!(ha) and the cats that roam around all look like pirates.
Property values have soared, yet it maintains its charm.
No new building, only renovations.

Sergio A. Ortiz Rivera said...

Just beautiful. like a poem.