Watercolor: Painting The Sea

watercolor ocean plein air, cobalt teal blue sea art, debiriley.com

I love using watercolors to paint on location.

Out in the fresh air. Clouds drifting by on fresh ocean breezes. This is the epitome of painting for me.

Amazing, that crowds of people aren’t outside sketching, dabbling,  the process is so …… peaceful. Beneficial.

watercolor ocean plein air, cobalt teal blue sea art, debiriley.com
For Love of Outdoors, watercolor sea


Outside – With Watercolors!


Nature’s Benefits

Nature has its own special rewards for us as well. Every time.  We just Feel Better!  Even if its merely sitting on our own lawn under the tree, or the local park bench.

If you enjoy painting landscapes, trees and mountains, gardens and lakes…… you’ll fall in love, with painting outside once you get in the groove!





Sure. At first it is,  way different to using a photograph that’s  already been mapped out and designed for you.

But – You get to be IN Control of all the selections.

Delete. Add. Move. Change colors.  Move to another area, another subject.

Don’t we really all like, that bit of control!?

So OK,  it takes a few goes to get in the swing of painting outdoors.

Its fun, pleasant and I’m hoping you do enjoy the actual Process of painting itself!  If, thats the prime driver  no worries.  A good result will be forthcoming with time, effort, practice. And in the meantime you are getting lots of vitamin D!

As my daughter says…find the positives. I smile.



Two Key Points

#1 key factor

The main thing to remember is to absolutely be ruthless in Simplifying.

It is way too easy to become bogged down, isn’t it?  All those details, all those things out there?!




#2 key factor

Next is make sure you have a clear, evident, obvious  Tonal Value range.  In other words the artwork must have obvious Light. and Mid tones. then Dark tones.

Do not skimp on The Light Tones!!!   Go gung ho  on these.  You’re always able to go in later and darken at will.




  • Enjoy and feel the atmosphere of the location.
  • Really, soak it in.  Sit there awhile.  Be.
  • Look and observe.  Wait.  Don’t  rush to paint – yet.
  • Get to know the place, get to feeling the vibe and mood.
  • THEN.
  • You are ready.




I think, it is that last part that got me hooked on painting outside.

And made me fully realize what I’d been missing

by painting from Other’s Photos.

others’ feelings.

others’  thoughts  and opinions.


My Own Opinions….

Painting outside…there is freedom.  I paint from my own,  opinions.  My own thoughts and feelings.    No ‘extracurricular influencing other’ to dictate,  to sway me, nor tell me where to, or how to convey the subject.

That’s between the subject and myself.





Background, Middleground, Foreground areas are clear, helping to create depth.

Leaving plenty – of white of the paper –  adds to the spark and life of the painting.

Warming up the colors,  Aerial Perspective, as we progress into the Foreground also helps to give the illusion of more depth.


This was a fast painting. It was painted on dry paper.  I paired up Cobalt Teal blue pg50   with a complementary terracotta orange (foreground) to give some ‘zing.’   Great Tip!!





Quick Overview
  • sky   –    a simple wash of cobalt, quickly gliding around some cloud shapes
  • hills and headlands  – cool and pale grey greens/blues.  just  plain and simple
  • ocean water – leaving a fair bit of Whites, to set off my pretty Cobalt Teal Blue
  • beach foreground   –  warmer colors.  plus I did soften and merge water edges



I didn’t try for a 10,000 brushstroke PhotoRealist approach. That’s not ‘me.’

Colorful, sparkling,

fresh and free

with just a bit of attitude was the look I was after!


I could not,  no,  wouldn’t have been possible to achieve this freshness without Being There. Nor, from someone else’s  preplanned out photo.



Watercolor Painting the Sea was really a fast painting, done in less than 10 minutes.






Published by debiriley

The act of creation, in any media is a fascinating and magical process. I simply love to create. Expressing in color, line, tone, texture - as if, they were words upon a page. Creating a uniquely me, interpretation. Enjoy More of my "one-of-a-kind" expressive art at society6.com/debiriley and, redbubble.com/people/debijriley/shop

17 thoughts on “Watercolor: Painting The Sea

  1. OH MY WORD! yes! I love it…..your painting and your post about plein air, I am in heaven with this post. If people only realize how amazing and how fun it is to get out there and paint. Paring down and I love your emphasis on control, yes, we are more in control when you go out and pick and choose, funny, I never thought of it in that way. Cool post, I love it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Simple and positive is a good mantra which I like, it makes everything more enjoyable, peaceful and as you mentioned beneficial! Once again Zen is important indeed! Have a marvelous weekend Debi-zen!


    1. thank you. Very much. I’m so glad that you are finding inspiration here, that is wonderful. And I must confess, your comment was of great timing. 🙂 cheers, Debi


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