Seaton Sluice in acrylics
Seaton Sluice, Northumberland - painting tutorial
Seaton Sluice, Northumberland

While recently deciding what my next piece of artwork would be I trawled through my reference photographs and decided I wanted to paint Seaton Sluice with all its memories of a lovely day out and the experience of seeing the sea turn from a very inviting blue to a very angry grey.

Seaton Sluice sits on the North East coast of England and has an important industrial and fishing heritage. It's a small quiet little village with soft inviting sands and on a summer's day is a very pleasant walk along the beach.

I took the reference photograph, along with several others, while visiting the area with my daughter Leah in 2008. Although it was a sunny when I took the reference photograph, the weather soon changed. Leah and I watched as blue skies turned to grey. We saw the dark clouds gather and form out at sea. It was quite fascinating to watch a storm head inland.

Within a short time, the sea had turned a dark grey and became very threatening. I managed to take one last photograph of an angry sea with high rolling white waves against the grey of the sea before we had to leave. It rained all the way home but we both remember that day very well.

I hope you will enjoy painting this lovely little area as much as I did and perhaps even visit it someday.

For this tutorial, you will need the following colours in acrylic paint.
  • Cerulean Blue
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Cadmium Orange
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Titanium White

I used Oil brushes in sizes 4 for the sea and sky areas, size 2 for the headland and size 1 for the rooftops, chimney pots and windows.

Have two jars of clean water ready, one for cleaning your brush and the other to rinse the brush before dipping into other colours. This way your colours stay clean and fresh. This applies to watercolour too.

My painting is approximately 9 × 7 inches (11" × 8" paper) on acid free canvas, which is not easy to photograph, as you get the weave of the canvas showing through very easily so close-ups don't really work unfortunately. You could use a heavy watercolour paper for this painting is you wished, something like 300lbs in weight.

I taped my canvas to my board to secure it in the same way you would if working with watercolour. You will get some bleeding under the tape but that won't be a problem when it is matted and framed.

I used my acrylics like watercolour on this occasion. To do this you simply use more water thinning down the acrylics to look like acrylics. Acrylics, being made of a fast-drying paint which contains a colour pigment suspended in an acrylic polymer emulation, makes it a fast drying medium. It also becomes water-resistant when dry which is why it is best to use a stay-wet palette, keeping the paint moist and pliable throughout.

I also pre-mix all my colours on a stay-wet palette ready for use. This makes it much easier to work and saves time. Since acrylics dry out very fast it is a good idea to have a small spray bottle filled with water to hand so that you can occasionally spray the acrylics just enough to keep them damp and workable.

If you have any acrylic paint left over on your palette when finished, and you want to save it for another painting, simply pop your palette into a plastic bag, or cover it tightly with plastic, making sure the palette is still damp. The paint will last for several days if kept moist and easily used at a later day when inspiration takes you again.

Let's begin...

The first thing I suggest you do is decide where your light is coming from and mark the top corner of your support with a little pencilled in arrow to remind you. Mine was coming from left to right so the buildings were all sunlit. Had I decided to move the light source to a different angle the sides of the buildings might have been in shadow and I would have had to paint them accordingly

First I placed a small amount of Cerulean blue on my palette and mixed it with plenty of water, this makes it look like watercolour. I used this for the sky area.

I then used a small amount of Ultramarine blue in the same way for the sea area using less water.

Step One
  1. I drew a fine line for the horizon with a 2H pencil.
  2. Next, using the number four brush, I laid on a thin wash of Cerulean Blue in the sky area taking my brush strokes from top right to bottom left to give the sky a soft slow movement. You can of course make a flat sky wash by simply taking the brush from left to right all the way down. The choice is your.
  3. I used a thin wash of ultramarine blue for the sea area because Ultramarine is a darker blue and contains a little red in the mix. This was painted left to right to give a flat sea area.
Remember to let each stage dry thoroughly.

Step Two

I lightly drew in the headland and buildings with the 2H pencil as you see below.

Step Three
I advise mixing the colours you need and having them ready to hand on the stay-wet palette as we are now going to do the headland.

Mix together a little Ultramarine Blue and a little Cadmium Orange to make a grey for the rooftops and chimney on the buildings. Blue and orange are complimentary colours and therefore make a grey colour. An equal measure of both colours gives a better grey.

Any two complimentary colours will produce a grey but to keep the painting harmonious in colour I used the above colours because I had already used the Ultramarine in the sea area. I had decided to use the orange in the headland to give it a mix of colours and show the sunlight on the earth.

The headland, like any expanse of earth, such as mountains, is not a flat green but a mix of various colours, depending on the area, which you will be using.

For the headland mix together small portions of the following colours:
  • Yellow ochre and burnt sienna. This will be used for both the pathway leading up to the buildings and the beach area.
  • Mix a little Yellow Ochre with a little Ultramarine Blue to make a dark green for the headland and the grasses in front.
  • Mix a little Cerulean Blue with a little Yellow Ochre to make a lighter green for the headland and the grasses in front.
  • Have a little Burnt Sienna ready for the headland.

Now, with the Yellow Ochre and the number two brush, cover the headland. This acts as an under painting and brings the headland together.

Using the paint mixes you have already mixed on the palette, as above, cover the headland making it darker at the seaside with the mix of Ultramarine and Cadmium Orange mix. This gives a dark against light area.

Use your other mixes to fill in the headland remembering to place a lighter colour next to a darker colour for tonal value. This makes the painting more interesting and pleasing to the eye.

Each painting of the headland will be different depending on where you place your colours but remember, there is no right or wrong way to do this.

Use some of the Ultramarine and Cadmium Orange mix for the wall making it a little darker so the wall stands out from the headland.

Use this same mix for the rooftops and chimney pots of the buildings using a little more water to thin it down a little and make it lighter in tone.

Let each area dry thoroughly.

Lightly apply a thin layer of Cerulean blue to the rooftops and chimney pots to reflect the sky and add a sense of Ariel perspective. Since the buildings were some way off Ariel perspective diminishes detail, so you won't see any curtains at the windows. It also has a softer contrast and turns colours bluer, which is why you often see distant mountains painted in a blue grey colour.

Put in an impression of the little windows with the same grey mix you used for the rooftops. Remember they are very small and at some distance, so little is showing.

Leave to dry.

Seaton Sluice watercolour painting

Step Four

To complete the painting, use the White acrylic with your smallest brush to paint in the waves crashing against the rocks. As above, there is no right or wrong way to do this, as waves, just like trees, are never the same shape twice. It is a good idea to look at the sea and her waves if you can to get a good idea of how waves roll. If you cannot do this, look at close-up photographs of them.

Use the mix of Ultramarine Blue and Yellow Ochre and paint in some grasses at front right with your smallest brush. Always take the brush up the way grass grows and try not to loop the stroke back down to look like a very thin letter 'n'.

Use the Cerulean Blue and Yellow Ochre to make, lighter sun lit grass and paint in the same way as above.

Let it dry.


You now have the finished the painting, which I hope you are pleased with. Of course, it will look much better when matted and framed. The choice of matt colour is yours but I would suggest you use one of the colours already in the painting to keep the whole thing harmonious and pleasing to the eye. A simple frame should look good too.

Seaton Sluice painting tutorial
The completed painting is 9 × 7 inches.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and found it helpful. If you have any questions please and I will be happy to answer them.

Best Wishes,

Edith Kavanagh Steel

previous tutorial
next tutorial
© Copyright Edith Kavanagh Steel 2010
Please for written permission to reproduce this tutorial.