Acrylic Painting for Beginners - How to Paint an Abstract Seascape on Canvas Step by Step | Elle Byers | Skillshare

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Acrylic Painting for Beginners - How to Paint an Abstract Seascape on Canvas Step by Step

teacher avatar Elle Byers, Artist and Teacher

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Block in Colors


    • 3.

      Begin to Layer


    • 4.

      Layering the Water


    • 5.

      Water Final Details


    • 6.

      Clouds (the end!)


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About This Class

Acrylic Painting for Beginners - How to Paint an Abstract Seascape on Canvas Step by Step!

Welcome to my acrylic painting class!  In this class, I am going to teach you how to paint a stormy abstract seascape with acrylic paint on canvas. Each step is broken down into shorter lessons so you can learn the techniques I use to create paintings just like this one.  I show you the paint colors and supplies that I use, how I block in my composition, and how I layer my acrylic paint to create a sense of depth in my paintings.

I hope that this class inspires you to create your own seascape painting! 

I have my reference photo and a supply list below. If you create a painting, I would love to see it! Click on "Projects & Resources" below the video and then "Create Project" to upload a photo of your seascape painting. 

8 x 10 inch canvas
Flat paint brushes, size 12, size 1 inch, and size 1-1/2 inch
Water to clean your brushes
Palette paper or a paper plate
Acrylic paint 

Paint Colors (I use Golden Fluid Acrylics)
Turquoise Phthalo 
Phthalo Blue (green shade) 
Titanium White 
Carbon Black 
Raw Umber

Golden paints are professional grade paints and therefore they are expensive. If you are a beginner, I encourage you to look at some of the student grade paint options such as Liquitex Basics or Blick.

I used this reference photo for the composition but decided to make my ocean much more stormy! The reference photo is from

My finished painting.

Meet Your Teacher

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Elle Byers

Artist and Teacher


Hello, I'm Elle Byers. I'm an artist and a teacher.  My favorite medium is acrylic paint and my favorite subject is flowers!  Check out all of my Skillshare classes at the bottom of this page. 

If you want to see what I'm up to on a daily basis, you can follow me on Instagram.  My available paintings can be purchased on my website, 

See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hi everyone. In today's class I'm gonna teach you how to paint an abstract ocean scene just like this one with acrylic paint on canvas. I'm using an eight by ten inch canvas Today. I am using a pallet paper for my palette. I have three different size paint brushes that I'm going to be using, a size 12 for detail. And then I have a one-inch and a 1.5 inch brush that I use for most of the painting. They are all flat brushes. I have some jars of water and some paper towels to clean my brushes. And I'm gonna show you the five pink colors that I use today. Carbon black, failover blue, turquoise fallow, titanium white. And I do use just a touch of raw, unburned. I'm going to list all of the supplies and paint colors below the video. If you click on the About tab below the video, you will see the list there. And if you would like to upload a photo of your abstract ocean scene, you can click on the projects tab and upload a photo of your work. Okay, let's get started. 2. Block in Colors: I'm starting off by adding a little bit of black, some blue, and some turquoise to my palette. And I'm also going to add a little bit. And what I'm going to do is just lock in my composition. And I'm going to start with a dark blue. Mixing my fellow blue with carbon black. With philo blue is very bright. It's too bright for what I want today. So by mixing it with a little black, I'm making a very dark and midnight blue. That's gonna be my horizon line. And the closer I am to the horizon, darker my water is going to be. I'm very loosely following a reference photo that I will post and the About section below the video. Once I get the basic composition down though, I am going to abandon the reference photo. Because I want this painting to be a little bit more abstract looking or a lot more abstract looking. So I don't want to get caught up in the details of the reference photo. And I pick up a little white, too much black there of that. So K, this is just the first layer, so I'm not worried about my colors being exact. I'm really just trying to get the values down, right, so dark blue to more of a light turquoise and then a little bit of sand down here. Great. Now I'm just using the tip of my brush. And I'm making brushstrokes that kinda go up and down. Doing this intentionally because when I start to paint my water and waves, I'm going to be painting side to side. And having these brushstrokes and the background will make a more visually interesting painting. So I'm keeping it dark, but intentionally i'm not over blending. You can see the strokes of white and blue and black in there. With the same brush, I'm gonna pick up my turquoise. And I'm gonna do the same thing. Like to paint the sides of my painting as I go along because it just looks nicer when it's finished. If you don't frame it to have the sides. Dom looks more complete to me. So again, I'm not over blending. I want you to see a little bit of the white and the turquoise brush strokes. So pay to blend the man with the blue a little bit. And then I'm gonna do a lot more white as I come down closer to the shore line. And then for my sky, just wipe my brush there. I have my brushstrokes going in the opposite direction. My sky, I'm gonna leave pretty simple that at once it dries, I will add some clouds on top. For my sandy area. I'm going to just start off with a light caret. And if it's too flat looking, then I'll probably mix in another color. Maybe some red. I'm thinking what San twitch were I love and New England. It's kind of like a grey color when it's wet. But this is not going to be the focal point of my painting, so I'm not really worried about getting it exact. Oh, probably change that color up a little as I go along. But I think going to add a little gray in my sky while that's wet. Just for some shadows around the clouds. You can add a little into your water if you want. And I'm going to let this layer dry, mostly dry so that I can start to layer some more blues and greetings. My weight, my weight. Ocean waves on top of it. 3. Begin to Layer: So this is mostly dry now and I'm taking my largest brush. And I was painting like this for my under painting, my blocking layer. Now you're gonna see me hold the brush like this. And I'm going to be doing a lot of paintings sideways, widths, the flat part of the brush, even a metal, back and forth, even twisting and sometimes to make marks that mimic more what the ocean looks like. So I'm gonna show you how I'm just putting some white on my brush and it mixed a little on my palette, but that's okay. I don't want to cover the entire ocean, the entire under painting, I should say. I want to leave some of that showing. I am going to cover most of it. So in the middle here. And we're going to have my biggest area of waves. And the idea is that you have these marks, so you don't want a solid Mark, you want it to be broken up like that. And if you do too much, don't worry, you really can't mess up this type of painting. If you end up doing too many waves, too much weight, you just wait for it to dry and you paint over it with your blues. So right now, just generally marking where my waves are breaking. This technique works best if your brush is completely dry. That's my black and my fellow blue. Using the same brush. And I'm just going to mix some more dark, right? Definitely your darkest, closest to your horizon line. Those dark colors are going to create a sense of depth. It's going to make that part of the painting look further away. And see I can go right over my white here. If I think that I put too much weight. Also you'll see that I'm not over blending or over mixing my paint right on my brush. You can see that there is white and blue at the same time, which will give you a nice mixed effect on your canvas. Every once in a while, I'll glance at the reference photo. And I noticed that there is darker water here. And then it gets a little bit lighter here. And over here should be a little bit more turquoise. But don't feel like you have to follow that exactly. C, that was probably too dark, but it doesn't matter because I know that I can paint over it. If you find that you're starting to have a hard time, things are getting too mixed together, then just stop and let everything dry before you continue. If you go over the same area too many times, it's just going to all be one big blended mess. So I'm not no longer using the reference photo to add in my waves. I'm just doing what I think will look good. I know that I need to have a variety of dark to light. You want a good a good variation in your values. Right? How light or dark your color is. You can even scrape with just the side. If you want to try to get a thinner line. So my ocean is looking very moody compared to my reference photo, but I like it. So I'm going to keep going with it. If you use too much black and you are trying to go for a lighter, more maybe tropical Caribbean look, then you can just let your black dry and go over it with a lighter color. I think that I want to start to add some more white. But if I added in right now, it's going to just, it's gonna just blend in with my blues and greens. So I'm going to let this dry for a few minutes. And then I'm going to add some more layers. 4. Layering the Water: That is mostly dry now. And I'm going to try to find a clean spot only palette here and add some weight using a clean brush. And I'm getting it all over one side. And I want some more of my waves going in this direction, like this is going to brush off some of that. No, it was not completely dry but it's okay. It looks better when it's a little blended. And then I'm going to have some right along the coastline here. I think I'm going to take a smaller brush and do some more detailed work. Holding the brush like this. Not like a pencil. I'm not holding it close up here because that won't give me the loose look that I'm going for. And I'm not using the tip of my brush right now. I'm still dragging it across my canvas and I'm twirling at a little. Start to add more color back in. So what I do, just go back and forth between the water and the waves and tell him pretty much happy with the way that my painting looks. Just keep layering until you feel like it's finished. We're going to add a couple of areas. If you kinda lift your brush up and over, you can get a little bit of a cresting wave type of look. Alright, just push it up and back down a little. While you're moving it over. I think I want my dark to come down a little and here, I went a little too late for what I want it up there. And I'm just covering it up. It's hard for me to get pure white now because my paint is all wet, so it's just blending too much for what I want over there. So I'm going to let this dry before I touch it up. I want to be careful to leave some of this under painting showing because I like how that looks different from the rest of the painting. You can make different types of marks. The more visual interest you're going to have in your overall painting. If all your brushstrokes look the same, then the painting's going to be kind of boring. So you can go use your brush, not just signed to psi b, you can go up and down as well. I'm gonna grab a clean brush, see if I can add more weight. And I'm just looking now to see where else I want to have some lighter waves. Hey, I think I'm going to let this layer dry for a few minutes and figure out what I'm going to do to finish up my painting. 5. Water Final Details: I don't think this is completely dry, but that's okay. Just wanted to darken the value on this side a little. To me, my paintings are more dramatic looking if I have a real strong variation in the value or the light and dark. And I'm definitely getting more abstract as I go along, which is what I'm looking for. You just don't want it to be flat so you don't want to go in and paint the whole area dark. A lot of dark with some pops of light coming through. And I'm just pushing my brush up and pulling it down very lightly. And then to finish up the ocean, I'm just gonna make some little marks. You can really get as detailed as you want with this style of painting. You could just do two layers and leave it pretty simple. Or you could keep going. Fire six layers really is just whatever. Look you're going for. I tend to over paint everything. I never know when to stop. So my paintings usually have a ton of layers on them. There definitely needs to be a little bit of waves down here crashing onto the shore. And let's see, I don't want to do with my Sand. I want to leave it pretty simple. I'm taking a dot of raw number to give it more of a gray brown. And then just a couple of little waves crashing onto the sand. And I'm gonna leave that the way that it is. And the last thing that I am going to do is work on my sky. 6. Clouds (the end!): Pay for my sky. I'm gonna just try to find an area on my palette where I can put some weight. My one-inch brush and see how this goes. And I'm just going to add in some clouds and mixed a little more than I wanted to, but I don't think that's a bad thing. So don't wait, my brush. N0 is the back of my palette papers. You get some clean weight. Just add in a little bit of color in the sky. A little gray under the clouds is always good to give it a little shadow. Switch to a smaller brush because I'm just trying to do a little bit more detailed work. Is twisting my brush a little. Just so my clouds don't look like straight lines. I hope you enjoyed this painting class today. If you want to be notified every time I post a new class, you can click on follow next to my name right below the video. And also I have all of the paint colors and supplies that I used for today's class. They are listed in the About section below the video. You click on the word about. And then you'll also see a tab that says projects. If you create your own ocean painting inspired by this class today, I would love to see it. You can click on projects and upload a photo of your painting. K. I am calling this one finished. Thanks for watching.