The Call of the Sea

Every summer I re-read Treasure Island, and without fail, I begin to hear the call of the sea. As an artist, I’ve never really been able to answer that call. Oh, I’ve dabbled around a bit — and subconsciously my fascination with pirates of old has come out in drawings I’ve made, but painting a real seascape has been far beyond my capabilities.

When I learned to use soft pastels, I created a few seascapes, like this one:

Call of the Sea 1 Pastel Waves

I tried watercolor:

Call of the Sea 16.jpeg

And I tried oil:

Call of the Sea 6 Ocean Waves at Night

Although the pastel painting came out fairly good, the watercolor and my first oil attempts left a lot to be desired.

So do my current attempts.

Framed Seascape

Painting ocean waves, I’ve come to see, is not easy. I do slightly better when I paint quiet seashores, such as this one, painted from the graphite sketch I made at the July “Open Studio” sponsored by our Tri-County Art League.

Victoria Head

My Pirate Cove painting also turned out well:

Framed Cove Painting

Oh, but waves! Crashing waves, rolling waves, big waves and even little waves… all seem to elude me. I get the tops too thick, my colors are all wrong, and I haven’t yet learned to capture that quintessential feeling of movement which is what draws us, I think, to seascapes and marine paintings.

And then there are boats. I’ve tried painting sailboats. The results have not been good.

Call of the Sea 13

During my daily drawing practice, I’m now drawing a lot of boats, trying to learn the basic shapes so that someday I’ll be able to add them to my paintings.

Along with boats, there are also lighthouses. Everyone loves lighthouses, and I would love to be able to draw and paint them. That’s another area where I’m currently doing a lot of practice. The piece below is one of my in-progress practice paintings. I sure misjudged the height when I painted in the lighthouse, but please, look at the rocks I’ve painted. I’m proud of those rocks. I’m even getting better at showing the sunlight on the rocks.


All in all, I have a long way to go in learning to paint seascapes, also known as nautical or marine paintings. Fortunately, there are a lot of resources available, and I have several books on the way. I love getting used art books from Amazon.

Here are several instructional books that might be of interest if, like me, you’re wanting to answer the call of the sea.

How to Paint Seascapes

Painting Skies and Seascapes

Seascape Painting Step by Step

Sea and Sky in Oils

Techniques for Painting Seascapes – Dover Art Instruction

These are written primarily for oil painters, but you’ll find instruction books for acrylics and watercolor, as well.

And if you’re already adept at creating seascapes but would like to add boats, lightouses, and other nautical elements, there are books to help with that, too.

Drawing and Painting Boats

Marine Painters Guide

Painting Ships, Shores, and the Sea

This is just a quick look at what’s available. There are many, many more books. You’ll also find tutorials online — which is what I’m about to check out. Maybe the next time I’m swept away with a wave of inspiration, I’ll be able to create something worthy of the grandeur and majesty of the sea.






  1. These are great. 🙂 I have been meaning to study painting waves and seas for a few weeks now and this inspired me to definitely start. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I found out last summer that Stevenson wrote most of his ‘Treasure Island’ in Braemar, Scotland. Braemar is in the Highlands, nowhere near the sea (so much for nautical inspirations). Stevenson had the idea to write this story for his little stepson who was bored during a family holiday, most likely because it was raining buckets most of the time. Your lighthouse painting is very atmospheric, i think it turned out very nice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! And thanks for the info about Stevenson. It’s always interesting to know more about “the story behind a story.” Treasure Island has always been one of my favorite books. I never tire of reading it.

      Liked by 1 person

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