So I shattered my finger last week and I’ve been out for the count. However, I will say that my hand is feeling much better and I’m looking forward to being able to paint again (I’m right handed).
For this post we will be painting a new tropical seascape painting in oils from start to finish. We’ll be using palette knives on a stretched canvas. To take a look at what specific colors I use on my palette, visit
So…Let’s get started!
First we’ll grab some Phalo blue and begin painting the sky portion. For the horizon line, I like to put a piece of tape down to keep it straight. When using palette knives, it’s important to try not to be intimidated by working loose. Just go from side to side with the knife blade, making the blue lighter as you go down. It should feel like you are buttering a large piece of toast!
Now that the blue is laid down, we can start adding clouds. To ensure that the Titanium white doesn’t mix with the blue, you’ll need to apply it pretty thick onto the canvas. Experiment a little so that you can feel more comfortable with using the knife.
To add the ocean, I used a mixture of Pthalo blue and Ultramarine blue, two of 3 blues I have on my palette. They are my favorite colors to work with. Mix them together and create the base color for the ocean and bring the paint up to the horizon. Try to keep the water line as straight as possible.
Now we will begin working on the sand. Mix Titanium white with a tiny speck of Burnt Sienna to get an off-white sandy color. Paint this below the sea to start the sand, but don’t go too far down the bottom of the canvas because that area will be getting covered up with vegetation.
Now you can take some straight Pthalo blue (which is dark out of the tube) to begin making the shadows in the waves. You can decide in what areas you’d like some waves. That is the fun part about painting! Here you can see where I ended the sand.
I’d like to add a palm tree on the right side of the foreground. To do this we need to scrape the paint off, making the actual shape of the palm tree. This is the easiest way to do this because if you don’t scrape the paint off you will have a hard time. You can do this with the tip of the knife blade. The paint will come right off the support except for the paint shadow (stain).
In painting wet on wet, it’s always simplest to paint light colors over dark. Now this is a general rule. It certainly doesn’t apply to every situation. Add some Green Earth and black to the palm tree. To get a rich vibrant black color, add Ultramarine Blue with Burnt Sienna. At the bottom of this painting will be a forest of sea grapes. Lay down a medium shade of green to get the base color for the plants.
From the original base color mixture, simply add Cadmium Yellow Light and Titanium white to lighten it, and black and Cadmium Yellow Medium to darken it. This will give you several interesting shades for the leaves of the sea grapes. If you need to look at photos of the plants, that is always helpful. Feel free to make them as congested as possible for a more realistic effect.
Now we can add some waves to our ocean! This is always my FAVORITE part! To do this, put some globs of white on the back side of the blade tip and begin making little sweeps. If some mixes with the blue, no problem. But make sure that some bright white is applied for the foam of the waves in the light.
From there we can go ahead and start bringing the palm tree to life. This is the most time-consuming process of the painting. You can be as detailed as you’d like or you can go for a more abstract look. It’s totally up to you.
To give the piece more character I decided to add some chairs and umbrellas on the beach in the background. Don’t worry about details. All you really need are the impressions of the objects in the distance.
Here are the sea grapes up close. You can see that each leaf is a glob of thick paint. And since we are painting thickly with knives, it creates textures and shadows for a nice 3-D type of look.
Here is the finished painting, called “View from the Top.”
View from the top 18×24 inches…oils on canvas
And that is all there is to it! It is so fun and everyone can learn how to do it with practice and dedication. Most of painting is not about learning tricks; it’s about learning how to see. And if you are enjoying my these tutorials, be sure to follow my blog or leave me a comment below.
I hope you all had a fantastic weekend, and I will talk to you soon.
Until next time, let’s bring some color into the world. It really needs it.