Monday, February 3, 2014

How Waves Form

Often, people who buy my wave paintings say that it "feels" like they are there, that they can "smell" the ocean. When I am painting waves, I am actually not concerned with the level of realism. I am still figuring out how to paint them and I know that getting things to look real just takes practice. Getting things to "feel" real however, takes study...lot's of study. I go to the beach at least three times a week and stare at the ocean. I love doing this anyway, to me it is one of the most relaxing things I do.
Waves have anatomy, and like a person, there are reasons why they move the way that they do. If anyone has ever seen a figure drawing or painting done by a person who never studied anatomy, you might cringe at the sight, and yet I know many people who paint waves have never actually studied how they move. One of the most interesting aspects of waves, and the most difficult to paint is the fact that while the top of the wave is moving toward us, the surface below is moving in the opposite direction.

A few factors determine how strong an individual wave will be. These include:
  • Speed of wind: The faster the wind is traveling, the bigger a wave will be.
  • Time of wind: The wave will get larger the longer the length of time the wind is hitting it.
  • Distance of wind: The farther the wind travels against the wave (known as fetch), the bigger it will be.
 A great article on how waves form from the site How Stuff Works:

Here are two videos and a diagram, just a few of the many things I have read on the subject.

Below is a link to a great video on The Weather Channel about the huge waves in Hawaii:

One of my favorite myths I have heard about waves is that they come in in predictable numbers. Not true based on my observations. Much like the idea that no two snow flakes are alike, it is simply unprovable.

And below, just a fun video of some HUGE waves:


  1. I wrote a response to your wave painting yesterday and mused about your willingness to paint fruit only in real life while wave paintings would not be possible without photos, either hard copy, digital or from memory. Your wave paintings are simply lovely; the colors and foam dynamics are a fascinating study. It took about 30 minutes to compose and, when finished, I punched the "preview button" at the bottom and it all disappeared. It was a major disappointment to have that happen and I wonder if it has happened to anyone else brave enough to try the "preview button" on this blog site. I will not do it again.
    Thanks also for illustrating potential gallery glitches. You have certainly paid your dues. I hope your warnings serve others well.
    Please show your followers the mini painting I won last fall so that they have one more look at your dynamic talent. Thanks again for allowing me to pick a subject!
    Sincerely, Peg Becker

    1. Hi Peg.
      That has happened to me too! I usually "copy" a comment before hitting the preview button. It is a good point about working from life vs photos. my attitude toward working from photos is that you shouldn't us them unless you absolutely have to because the painting just can't be done from life.
      I will post your persimmons this week!
      Thanks for taking the time to comment

  2. P.S. There is a big surfing competition here on the west coast called Mavericks Invitational. It was announced today that it's a "Go" for tomorrow, Friday, January 24th. The waves are huge right now so the competition is set. Universal Sports Network will air it live or you can watch a live internet stream at

  3. I love all your work and especially your wave paintings. They are unusual and I don't know why - perfect colors maybe? Would you ever make a video about how you process goes, color mixes you use, etc? I'd buy it!

    1. Hi Elizabeth,
      I would be happy to make a video, if someone asks...Making a video on your own is time consuming and expensive so I would need a backer on the project. Although, I could put together a short Youtube video which I haven't done yet...
      You have also made me realize I haven't done a blog post on wave colors either so I have that to keep in mind as well!
      Thanks so much!

  4. Youtube would be great, Clint. Your colors are so wonderful in these - and such perfect color transitions in every part; I mean, I blew up the photo to just look at the openings in the foam and am blown away by your use of color. This gives such a great feeling to the paintings.