Perfect Wave

Painting is a real test of observation, imagination, patience, and perseverance. This means practice, practice, practice, even if subsequent paintings only show areas of improvement. Skill may (or not) develop – but I remain optimistic, as I can usually (not always) find a spot that I like.


I have been trying to paint water, specifically trying to get the perfect waves – those translucent walls of white capped water rolling in during a storm, either splashing onto rocks or onto a beach. Here are some samples from either looking at photos or watching videos trying to emulate the techniques. As this website is about trying, and not about perfection…


During a vacation in Australia, one of our favourite walks was along a route that took us through the park at Snapper Rocks, Queensland, a world renown surfing area.  The photo featured above shows a monochromatic painting of water crashing onto the rocky shore next to the walking path after a particularly heavy storm. It was painted from my photo below.

Snapper Rocks, Coolangatta, QLD

The route took us about a kilometer north to Kirra Beach – on this day, showing a more placid scene. Beside it is my attempt at reproducing it in paint.

Kirra Beach, QLD
Kirra Beach Simplified

More recently, to celebrate our birthdays (a month apart in the fall) and our 40th wedding anniversary, we went to Tofino, on the west coast of Vancouver Island. We had talked about going to do storm-watching (an actual activity) for decades, so this was a treat of a lifetime. In addition to walking the beaches during a rain storm, I hoped to bring back photos of the incoming waves as inspirations for painting.


The weather was perfect – rainy and windy! On top of turtleneck sweaters, pants and thick socks, we cocooned our bodies in water-proof jackets with drawstring hoods, overpants, boots, and gloves, but the winds were so strong we leaned into them at angles so acute we could have taken flight if our arms weren’t so bulky from our layers of clothing. We were blinded by the pin pricks of rain and were forced to turn around, but soon ran out of beach. (Note to self – pack ski goggles next time.)


We drove into town to check out the art galleries and find lunch, before attempting another walk on the beach. Unfortunately, our stay coincided with the regular weekday closure of the famous Roy Henry Vickers Gallery, which we have previously enjoyed visiting during summer holidays:  When I brought my mother and niece there many years ago, my traditional, elderly Chinese mother surprised me with her eclectic artistic taste by buying a copy of his Siwash Rock, featuring Chief Dan George. I found lots inspiration at the Mark Hobson Gallery, especially his ocean watercolours:


We didn’t bring home any art work on this trip, but my memories made me eager to try painting waves when we got back home. During this stay, we walked the beaches a number of times, but unfortunately, the winds did not blow in from the ocean at the right angle to produce the waves I was hoping to capture on my camera.


I painted this while watching Sterling Edwards’ video: I obviously didn’t pay enough attention to the direction of his brushwork on the tops of the waves, but I like the hills on the top left.

Imaginary Waves #3

This resulted from watching a video by Alec Krylow My favourite takeaways were the use of Gouache on the tops of the waves and his birds. So far, so good.

Imaginary Waves #4

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