Ebbing Tide

Some people might be thinking, “She sure does have a thing about crabs” but really, I have a thing about color. Crabs, shells, trees, etc are just a vehicle for playing with color… I think how wonderful violet and sienna look together and how can I paint that? A Quahog! How do I play with blues? A mussel or a blue crab – of course.

And I love water. I love waves, reflections, ripples. So I want to paint them.

This started as a game to play with sea foam without using the same bubble technique as I have done in the past.

I was looking at sea foam and how it can be not just bubbly but chunky – if those are the right words.

Sea foam on sand
Random Photo

I made a rough sketch on my paper and tried to quickly and rather loosely draw out foam with my Fineline Masking Fluid. I usually use the fine gauge but it was making me be too careful and precise so I got out the 18 gauge Fineline – which I don’t like – but I was able to much more loosely draw out nice chunky foam.

I did the whole thing then set it on the shelf behind my work table to dry. Of course the mask was so gloppy that it ran but, that is very fixable. Note, the 18 gauge mask is a little different color than the 21 gauge.

Fineline Masking Fluid on paper

As soon as it was all dry, I used a rubber cement pick up to remove that run and did a light wash on the background. My idea was to do a few light washes, adding more mask for small pebbles and sand each time. That way, if all works right, I will have several different tones of sand in the background.

First wash is Daniel Smith Burgundy Yellow Ochre and the only non-Daniel Smith pigment I still use – Grumbacher Academy Davy’s Gray. Maybe because it is a “student paint” it is not highly pigmented so it just adds a sort of pale, greenish earthy cast. I think I threw a little Raw Sienna and Amethyst in there too! (Affiliate links)

Remember, this is not the sort of tutorial where I lead you through step by step how to copy my painting, I want to show what I do and then maybe help you with ideas for your own painting.

Watercolor in progress

Here it is dry.

Watercolor in progress

Next, I randomly dot masking fluid around to mimic sand texture and rocks, then when that is dry, another layer of wash. Same colors but I think I threw in some Bloodstone – a gray/violet.

One amazing and kinda weird color combo I have been using a lot lately is amethyst or bloodstone (both on the violet spectrum) mixed with Goethite – a brown/ochre/orange. It should not work but makes for vibrant shadows. You can see it here just below the crab body.

Watercolor in progress

More random sand masking and the last wash. I’ve added some Cerulean to the foam areas.

Watercolor in progress

Now to remove the mask and see how this worked…

Watercolor in progress

OK, maybe not as much background texture as I would’ve like but overall it works for me. I know a lot of watercolorists like using clear, pure colors and there is nothing wrong with that but I love playing with these sort of “non-colors”. Where I live, the sand is pure white – “sugar sand” they call it. But when you look at an area of it, you will see browns, golds, turquoise, greens and every other color as the light and shadows interplay. And when it is wet, it looks a lot like the above.

I was going to paint a blue crab. Actually, I labelled the folder where I put these photos “Blue Crab” but at the last minute changed my mind. I saw a few photos of a local “swimming crab” and decided to steal those colors.

Here are my reference photos:

So the next step was to mask out a few details on the crab – I can already see how I am going to try to paint that shell.

Watercolor in progress

After the mask was dry (I get to take lots of breaks), I got the shell area very wet and floated in Goethite, Rare Green Earth and Terre Verte. Yes, those are shades of green and orange but it works, I think.

Watercolor in progress

Here’s a closer look –

Watercolor in progress

Painting the legs. Again, getting the area wet then floating in color. The masking helps to create a “dam” to keep the colors from running to other areas.

This is Goethite, Zoisite and Transparent Red Oxide. There are about a dozen colors that I keep dabs of on my palette as I use them in almost every painting. They dry out. I rewet them. No muss, no waste.

Watercolor in progress

All done except for removing the masking… I think.

Watercolor in progress

One thing I am not happy with is the sea foam. It is too harsh and one dimensional. I went over it with a damp brush to soften it but still, not right. I started going in with cerulean and painting over some of the white… you can barely see it. I have also started coloring some of the sand pebbles… the little details.

Watercolor in progress

Detail –

Watercolor in progress

Not sure this is working… But who knows?

Watercolor in progress

The last step is to remove the mask then go over all the masked areas with a damp brush to soften all those harsh outlines and blend the areas on the legs…

The finished painting
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