Creative narrative on painting a sea scene

Adding a Japanese fishing boat

I am still doing paintings of Sasebo. A coastal area in Japan that I love very much. But this time I am doing sea scenes with the addition of a fishing boat. I have been having a lot of fun doing watercolor sketches of Japanese fishing boats such as the one above.

Apparently, I don’t seem to be able to get Sasebo out of my system. You can see the previous paintings I did of Sasebo here. Below is one of my first attempts at painting the beautiful islands in Sasebo with the addition of a boat.


Although I liked the painting above, I felt the need to add some warmth to the edges of the trees that are sprouting out of the island rock. Below is one of several attempts I did. I was so happy with this particular painting that I got too afraid to add a boat in case I mucked it up.

Another attempt

So I attempted another painting and this time had the courage to add a boat. But I was also starting to play around with the sky and to add sweeping horizontal clouds. I wasn’t too happy with this particular sky though.

sea longings

Sky sketches

I felt the need to do some experimental sky sketches such as below in which I did 3 slightly different kinds of clouds. I played with yellow ochre and burnt sienna in creating these clouds.

Experimental watercolor sketches of skies

Amazing sky

I then went and tried to paint the scene again. But I never got to painting even the island because the sky was so glorious I just couldn’t touch it.

Beautiful Golden Sky

Watercolor sketches of boats

I also felt the need to do some sketches of boats. This led to one sketch in which by accident I had the sunlight coming directly behind the boat. I loved this and tried to paint a slightly bigger version but it didn’t work out but I think I will come back to this at some point and try to make it work. Below you can see the original sketch.

Although it embarrasses me to show this picture, I’m showing it in order to remind myself. I have feeling that one day I will see this again and have another attempt and there is a good chance that something good will come out of it. It is in these failed paintings that the gold sometimes lies.

Watercolor sketch of a boat with the sunlight hitting it.

A nice sketch

And below is one of the boat sketches I did that I was particularly pleased with. It’s very important for me to get the boat to merge beautifully with the waves that it is creating in the surface of the sea.

Watercolor sketch of a Japanese fishing boat.

A “creative” deviation

In the process of doing the sky and boat sketches I took a big deviation and went from a painting of a big island with a big boat in the foreground to having a tiny island in the distance and a rather tiny boat. This time though I had a very dramatic sky and sea scene as you can see in the painting below.

Golden Expanse
Golden Expanse


I was though dissatisfied with the color of the sea. It was too much of a murky gray. I wanted something lighter, perhaps a little more purplish. And so I changed my red from Cadmium red to Alizarin Crimson and this gave me a beautifully light purply gray that led to the painting below.

One step further

I was very happy with the last painting but I also wanted to try one modification of this painting by having the sunlight rip all the way down through the sea. I was happy with the result but I’m not sure which painting I prefer though the last one or this one.

Watercolor painting of the sea with a dazzling streak of light across the sea.

Creative craziness

And then I went back to looking at the very first painting of the fishing boat in front of the island and started to doing new versions of that scene – but that’s for another day. I’m having to train my self to cut these creative bursts at certain points otherwise I just get lost in creationism.

Happy painting,


PS Comments are welcome. I can’t always reply but I do read them. I’d love to know which painting is your favorite and why. And if you have any ideas for a title please let me know as I might make that the actual title – choosing a title is so difficult.

PPS This article was first written on June 2nd of 2019 but it took me a year and a half to finally publish it.

Gareth Naylor

I am an Englishman living and painting in Japan. I have now been here for over 17 years and have been painting for all that time. I love to travel around the Japanese countryside and find beautiful places to paint.

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