How to Draw Surf in Pastel

Skill Level : 1 Beginner

Medium : Pastel Painting

Subject : Seascapes

Tutor : Dennis Clark

Class Length : 2 hours 2 minutes

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Silver Level or Higher Class

Class Description

What is surf? It is the swell of the waves near the shore as well as the line of foamy water. This foam is made up of lots of air bubbles trapped in the turbulent swells - also by the crashing against the rocks. In this class you will create the illusion of the surf with the use of soft pastels.

In this lesson we will learn:

1. How to draw colour perspective in the mountains
2. How to draw an interesting sky
3. How to draw basic waves
4. How to draw some shoreline rocks
5. How to draw the foamy foreground surf

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Class Tutorial


Sketch all the outlines directly to the pastel paper with a charcoal pencil, a template has been provided. Just make sure that the horizon line is NOT on the centreline of the paper.

Snapshot of the pastel sticks and pencils being used.

Paint the sky

First add a layer of light blue in the sky area and then add a very light touch of red over the blue and blend as shown. We want a toned down blue. If too red then add some more blue until the required tone is obtained.

Paint the clouds

With a soft white lightly scrub in the clouds. You can now see why the sky colour was changed. We need the contrast to emphasize the clouds.

Do not do too much blending. Let the White chalk lay lightly on the top of the paper. Do not lose the fluffiness of the cloud edges.

Add an absolutely light layer of Naples Yellow to just tone down the absolute White. You must hardly see it.

Add some extra billows to the main cloud mass on the left. The main light is coming from the right hand side. Add a few small highlights to the billows.

Paint the mountains

With a dark brown stick lay in the dark areas of the mountain. Using a light grey/brown pencil draw in the distant mountain

Add some dark green to the brown and blend.

Using a light pink or Naples Yellow add it in for the sunshine on the mountain slopes.

Using a mauve/brown pencil to paint in the rocky ridges. Add in the highlights on the vertical ridges.

Paint the horizon

Use a dark blue for the horizon. Use a light pink pencil to add sunshine to the distant shoreline.

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Paint the sea and waves

Lay in the shadow of the waves leaving white for the foam areas. Add some light Viridian closer to the shoreline.

Use a soft white stick to lay in the tops of the rolling windswept waves.

Use the edge of the pastel stick to tap in the distant wave tops. Add a light Viridian colour to the surface of the water where it flattens out on the shore and add the surf marks.

Add the white streaks to the nearer wave and then start blocking in the rocks.

Paint the rocks

After laying the underpainting, use Naples Yellow to add the highlights of the different rocks. Notice the different sizes as well as the different shapes. Use a pencil to add the various textures to the rocks. Keep the main highlights to the foreground rocks.

Paint the run-out

Use a dark blue pencil to add the shadows in the surf area and darker reflections in the run-out surface.

Lightly tap in the spray on the nearer waves as well as the surf. Next paint in the water lapping against the rocks. Less violent towards the right.

Add the light foam strips to the run-out. Don't make them too large.

Paint the left hand rocks

Add the rocks in a similar fashion to the previous rocks. Soften the edges of the run-out against the sand.

The foreground sand

With vertical strokes add in the rock reflections and with light blue, the sky reflections, leaving some of the sand colour shining through/
Lightly draw in the backwash foam lines and then add the lapping against the rocks.

Add some gulls for life

Add an impression of a gull on the rocks. Use orange at the feet and for the beak.

Complete the painting by adding a few gulls in the sky. I have used white to create their shape then added black to the tip of the wings.

Final painting

About Dennis Clark

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