April’s Painting Project: Seaweed

This month’s painting project continues the seashore theme of March, focusing in on a detail on a beach rather than a wider view (as in February, August 2020 and June 2019). The reference photo is of some seaweed lying on the mixed black/white sand found on Skye, full of pattern and texture as well as “interesting greys“.

What appeals to me are the different textures, the deep darks in the seaweed, and the muted colours. I think it lends itself to exploring various things:

Transparent/opaque colours: being deliberate about choosing transparent colours to start building up layers of colours to get the sense of the depth and texture in the seaweed, then swapping to opaque colours for the topmost layers such as the grey stems. Use the white of the paper or canvas in the transparent layers rather than mixing in white. Use a thin glaze of opaque white as a layer to give a sense of water over elements.

Mixing colours: aim to mix every single colour, to not use any colour straight from the tube. To desaturate (mute) a colour, mix in a little of its complementary, so for yellows mix in purple. To get “interesting greys”, mixing complementaries together and explore the region of colour space where you’re in greys and browns. (I particularly enjoyed using dioxine purple acrylic inkwith yellows and oranges in my attempts at painting this.)

Granulating watercolour: The sand lends itself to granulating watercolour, where the pigment particles in the watercolour separate out rather and dry as specks of colour rather than smooth colour. Daniel Smith Lunar Black would be my starting point; mixed with any other watercolours it retains its strong granulating properties.

Texture paste: The sand could also be done with some texture paste, and here I’m thinking something with small granules, such as glass beads, or black lava texture paste flooded with fluid colour which will sink inbetween the granules.

Exaggerated colour: As well as working with desaturated colours, explore how far you can push (exaggerate or emphasise) a colour and still have it read as real. Getting the tone right will help this. So if something is a blue-grey, push the blue. If it’s a purple-pink grey, push the purple.

Collage: Using different papers for the seaweeds, torn edges and cut. The ribbon seaweed in particular I think could work well as a cut piece of thin paper.

Abstraction: Move away from representation and realism into abstract, focusing on the shapes and working these into your own patterns. Perhaps using shapes of flat opaque colour in the style of Matisse (see example).


To share your painting of this month’s project, or any previous project (it’s never too late to do any ) in the project photo gallery, simply email it to me on art(a)marion.scot or share it with me on social media. I look forward to seeing the results. For extra project-related content and personal help with your painting, become a project subscriber on Patreon here.


I took the photo on the beach at Staffin; see my blog Shoreline Abstracts for some more photos. For my first attempts at paintings inspired by this reference photo, see Shorelines: Seaweed Video Painting Demo. The photo below was my second attempt, acrylic ink on watercolour paper.

2 Replies to “April’s Painting Project: Seaweed”

Share Your Thoughts