Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ringlets of Foam

In breaking waves, whitewater, or ships’ wakes, water currents pull foaming bubbles beneath the surface. Seen through the water, the foam appears warmer and darker. As it rises to the surface, it forms ringlets of bubbles around each spreading cell of rising water.

Above: William Trost Richards, “The Storm” (click to enlarge).

The bubbles quickly disperse as the upwelling cell of water travels outward.

To make the foam appear to ride on the surface of the water, it should be painted last, while the underwater foam should be painted first. Above: A detail of an oceanscape by Montague Dawson (1895-1973). Full image at Animation Treasures


Steve said...

Trost never ceases to amaze.

For those seeking an extensive and entertaining discourse on painting seascapes and why waves form and break the way they do, check out Stapleton Kearns's blog:

and go to the posts from March 23rd to April 11th of this year.

Tyler J said...

Beautiful pieces, both. I am reminded constantly how little I know, but never so much as when trying to draw it (or paint it).

I suppose that is one reason that maestros like Leonardo kept a sketchbook.

The explanation about the bubbles and foam makes sense, but I realized that as familiar as the images are, I didn't really know why they appear as they do.

Thanks for the link, that's a great blog.

josembielza said...

Great analysis, James.

It always amazed me how british cartoonist Norman Thelwell (1923-2004) could depict the foam in his cartoons:

He was also a competent watercolorist, which may explain his skills depicting the ambient of his cartoons.

Roberto said...

Your right about Stapleton Kearns' Blog, it really is fantastic. He is a really interesting and talented guy with a lot to teach and a real gift for teaching it. I’ve been pretty deep into his archives and highly recommend it to anyone interested in exploring the craft of painting.
I’ve never really been interested in seascapes, although I appreciate a good one when I see one. The abstract qualities of the genre is what peaks my interest, and I’m fascinated by the light and water and atmospheric effects. It just seems like such a specialized subject, like painting duck scenes, or thoroughbred horses, or gingerbread houses (not that there is anything wrong with that). But I really got the seascape thing from the series of posts you suggest. I even get the below-zero snow-painting thing (not bad for an urban L.A. mural painter). I’m still not sure about the wig and pearls thing though, (I didn’t know Ann Landers smoked a cigar?). -RQ