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I have always wanted to try a wave crashing along a rocky shoreline. I found the reference photo for this painting on the Wet Canvas site for artists and stashed it away for awhile, intimidated by the abstract quality of it.Β  Everything was pretty much like painting any other painting as long as I was mindful of the values. The splatter was added, first by tapping a #4 round loaded with titanium white around the crest of the wave and then rubbing the bristles of a toothbrush in some creamy titanium white and aiming it at the wave and drawing my thumb back across the bristles (creamy white consistency or it will drip) like pictured below:

Be sure to place paper over the areas of the painting that you don’t want spattered.

Yes. I am becoming more comfortable using white watercolor in my paintings. The more I read, the more I see it documented. There is nothing that compares with the glow of white paper showing through but, sometimes, using white enhances certain paintings. Some rules I follow when usingΒ white are:

1. I use a different waterglass to rinse my white brush in. It is so opaque that it can contaminate other colors.

2. I usually use it towards the end of a painting as it bleeds into other colors and lightens them more than is desirable

3. I only use it in paintings where I want an opaque white appearance or can’t determine how to save the white of the paper.


  1. I’d always be worried about the reduction in control you have when spattering as opposed to painting, and that I’d likely ruin what I’d already finished…. Glad you decided to give it a go though, with a great result… and good to read your tips on using white in paintings too…

    • Oh, I remember well the first time I chose to splatter and spatter. Ha! My fear was so great of ruining “my precious” that I had waited a whole year after learning the technique and admiring others’ paintings that had spatter in them. My mistake was that I thought that piece of paper with some paint on it “precious”. Much of watercolor requires us to let go of our control element. It is why many walk away from the medium. To partner with the techniques available for the watercolorist is the most freeing feeling. Paint something, anything, and let it dry; then use the darks you used to paint that painting to spatter with. If it is a landscape and you have painted it very tight with a lot of edges? ..nine times out of ten the spatter improves it. Excellent point about the spatter! Thank you!

  2. I hope that you didn’t mean on a Surf Board, as you willfully try out those crashing waves on the rocky shoreline? πŸ™‚ lol Just kidding Leslie, I really like your painting and the techniques that you have used here makes a lot of sense to me, and of course the results speak for themselves…

    Thank you for adding yet another
    masterclass painting for us all to enjoy πŸ™‚

    Androgoth Xx

    • I probably wouldn’t even get to the wave to even try it, Andro! I’d be stuck paddling and paddling, not to mention I would not know the first thing about “hanging ten” (isn’t that what they call it when you stand up and have your toes somewhere on that board?) On another note, however, this painting could be made somewhat comical if I added a surfboarder groping and pulling himself up over the ridge of those rocks. πŸ™‚ Thank you for the visit and comment, Andro.

  3. Great painting Leslie and thanks very much for sharing this technique. I have to try it. Now I know why I kept all those old toothbrushes πŸ˜‰ . The white colour, is it watercolour or acrylic?

    • The white is titanium white watercolor. I use the American Journey brand and it is a little stronger. If I need something “shiney” white, I will use acrylic from time to time (a dot of white as a highlight in an eye for example). Thank you for the visit and comment. …and, yes, that is definitely what old toothbrushes are for. πŸ™‚

  4. Wonderful painting. The waves look like they are pounding the coast. Very realistic and I think the value composition gives the painting its strength. Really nice! I used to be a purist and wouldn’t think about using white watercolor. No more, I do what works. Your tips for handling whate paint are very useful.

    • I can’t take credit for the composition as it was already there in the reference, but I can say thank you for the comment on the values. Had to do some playing around on scrap paper to come up with those colors for the rocks and have them read dark enough. I agree on the white. If I can use the white of the paper, I opt for that, but otherwise, this day and age, white has a place too. πŸ™‚ Thank you, Linda.

  5. Splattering the paint is the most fun of the whole painting, I think…just saying. πŸ™‚
    I love the painting, Leslie. It’s gorgeous! I’m very partial to the rich color of the rocks.

    • Once we get past that initial fear of ruining something we paint, splattering is great; I’d have to agree. Oftentimes I use it on paintings that I think appear too controlled or too sterile. Thank you, Debbie. πŸ™‚

  6. Splattering is always fun and I have started a similar composition on canvas with oil..I loved your approach Leslie!

    • You mean to tell me we have both been painting waves? How cool is that? Do you splatter with oil, ever? Thank you, Padmaja!

  7. Waves slapping rocks, foam spraying and swirls of errant currents – that’s the way I love the ocean. Your painting captures the moment I would be standing on the beach waiting for a salty wash. The sounds, smells and feelings of this crescendo means a vital freedom to me.

    Who would have thought the bristles of an old toothbrush would top the creation on paper?!

    • I don’t get much opportunity to be near a large body of water crashing against rocks, but when I have, I feel that sound in my chest at the same time I hear the pounding of the waves. With the wind blowing, the spray feels like a mist washing over me. I wonder if that is where they got their term, “body” of water; by the feelings you and I have mentioned here. Are there rocks along some of the shoreline of your island, Amy? πŸ™‚ Long live the toothbrush! Ha! Thankyou, Amy.

  8. So nice. I can feel the sea spray. Looks like the coast of Maine. The masa paper lends itself to the depiction of a rocky sea coast. The contrast of the rocks is wonderfully dramatic. Well done. I love discovering new tools from household items. I keep a drawer full of potential art tools. I look in there from time to time to discover new techniques. Anything goes. And I am also a purist until I get bored with it.

    • Have you ever tried cheesecloth, Gretchen? I have, once, and I must try again soon. I know what you mean about drawers filled with household items that are fun to use. I just wish I’d think to use them more often. I agree about the masa paper. Thank you for your comments! πŸ™‚ Love your comment about getting bored with being a purist!

  9. It is really helpfull, thank you dear teacher πŸ™‚

  10. Viewing the finished Watercolour Leslie, I feel you have very good aim. πŸ˜€ .. I remember once doing a poem about white foamed, almost maddened, waves crashing and clawing at the rocks which were stopping their progress to the shore. .. the movement and feeling are all there to see in full glorious colour. (and white too of course.. ) . I can almost smell the ozone too, xPenx

    • I like how you write about them and the β€œclawing” actually personalizes them and I see them differently, now. …and I guess I would be a bit maddened by rocky barriers, Myself. Thank you for that insight and the aim thing? Lots of practice. πŸ™‚

  11. To splatter, or not to splatter… that is the question. I find it really hard to have a near finished painting and then take the chance of a near uncontrollable technic to ruin it. But almost every time I splatter it just adds more to the painting and I’m almost always please with the results. Wonderful painting Leslie and thanks for showing the technic.

    • You speak words of wisdomabout splatter, Ryan. It takes such little time and effort toactually do, but making that decision to splatter takes soooooo longsometimes. πŸ™‚ This time, I knew I had to as the waves looked so concrete without it. πŸ™‚ Thank you!

  12. With all those “nerve lines” (I don’t know what else to call them), you’ve really captured the energy of a pounding surf. Well done.

    Steve Schwartzman

    • Ha. Those nerve lines are actually created by the crumpled sheetof toned masa paper that I painted this on. I really enjoy working on it, just because of those lines. Thank you for a name, nerve lines, for them, Steve. I really like that!

      • What can I say, I’m just a nervy guy (or you can make that a nerdy guy).

      • If you are a nerd? Long live the nerds!!!!!! πŸ™‚

  13. This is gorgeous on the masa, Leslie! I don’t think there’s anything wrong with white, or black for that matter. I do try not to use black alone, but I sometimes mix it with another color. I often tint the white a bit, too, when I use it. Good idea on separate water for the white. I’m going to have to do that. πŸ™‚

    • I just ordered a book about an artist who used black watercolor to paint night scenes. I can hardly wait to research it and give it a go. His work is beautiful! So many ways to work in watercolor that I think we will never be bored. Thank you, Beth!

  14. I love the vivid colors in this one…these watercolors are awesome, dear lesliepaints. Amazing doing the spatter thing for the water and crashing waves. Brilliant. I am looking at your reply to Beth…night scenes so you will be loving the research! Of this I have no doubt and I am smiling here.
    Have a wonderful rest of the week.
    Raven xox

    • Thank you, Raven. Yes. I am excited to read the book about this artist who painted night scenes. I have attempted a few but used more colors than just black. Thank you for the visit and the comment.

  15. Ah yes – your technique is just the thing for this isn’t it? You are working so hard with this approach and producing some exciting and beautiful results. You are such an inspiration.

    • Thank you so much, Stephen. This is fast becoming my favorite paper to work on. πŸ™‚ Of course, I like so many things watercolor.

  16. Your paintings are always so life-like. I always want to visit these places you paint. It looks wild and beautiful!

  17. i love the spray of sea and the depth of blues here…

  18. Beautiful capture of the crashing waves and its dynamic energy. I think it would be difficult to capture it without using white. Personally, I’m never one to follow rules if it doesn’t make sense to me. Looks like you don’t either. πŸ˜‰

    Thanks for sharing the techniques Leslie.

    • I am finding, more and more, that we learn the rules so we know what to throw out to make a painting work. There are times when the white of the paper works for me and times that it just doesn’t give enough. Thank you, Emily! πŸ™‚

  19. This is a lovely painting Leslie. From the looks of it, I can hardly believe that it is the first time you have done surf. I, too, like the softness that spatter can give to a painting. Unfortunately it is hard to spatter with pastels…. LOL
    That “I might ruin it feeling” is one of the hardest things to get over. I know I struggle with it. It has just occurred to me that the fear of ruining something is different than the fear of overworking it. In one we aren’t willing to take a risk and in the other we are travelling too far on a known path. I think that in taking a risk we learn so much more.

    • Wow! You sure have stated that well, here, Ruth. Sometimes, I think there are even artists who venture into that overworking category who turn out incredible work. Thank you for that! I do believe there can be a difference, also.

  20. Great kinetic energy! Fantastic painting, Leslie!
    I too read increasingly more about white and also black (shhh! don’t tell the purists!) used in watercolor. I think that both have legit use and place in a painting. In fact, if saved white paper got painted over or muddied, then gouache and even white acrylic can save the day.

    • Ha! I am with you, Alex! I guess we two can share our discoveries in black and white as we go. I know there are a few more of us out there who can use these two colors, also. Thank you for the visit and comment, Alex!

  21. Hi Leslie –

    I fall into the too nervous to splatter camp, but once again your photos and directions inspire confidence and a desire to…well…what the heck give it a try! Your advise on using titanium white is especially useful for me now that I’m on an opaque/granulating watercolor craze. Yesterday I made a color chart mindful of using a separate water jar when I mixed colors with white. Thanks for that. When you get a chance, will you re-post where to order Masa paper? I’ve gotten lost looking for your link. Sorry!



  22. I anoint you MASA QUEEN! Queen of the masa paper. You are so inspiring and I swear one of these days I will try it. I always hesitated about using white gouache in my watercolors but finally when I decided it was ok, it was very freeing.

    I agree that you must use a different brush and water or you will make your watercolors opaque. Plus I love spatter on paintings. This is a beautiful one.

    • Wow! Thank you, Carol. I feel rather “Queenly”, right now. I think i hold back on teaching white for awhile just so my students achieve some success without pure mud, and then, “anything goes”! Ha! It took me three paintings to decide to use a separate glass. I am admitting to being a slow learner. πŸ™‚

  23. This is a beauty! I saw that on WC but was too intimidated to try it. Bravo!

    • Believe me, it sat in my folder for a “LONG” time. πŸ™‚ Thank you!

  24. Have a delightful weekend Leslie and you know that Surfer,
    he is behind that rather large wave feeling a tad silly, as he
    lost his trunks when that massive wave hit πŸ™‚ lol

    Androgoth XXx

  25. I LOVE THIS.Β 

    I grew up in a town right off the coast (OC, MD) and water is a fascination of mine, maybe because of my hometown, maybe because I am a Pisces, maybe because I used to be a mermaid in my past life. I began my painting “career” drawing “abstracts” in oil an acrylic. It’s when I learned about composition, focal points, and that I wanted to teach people. The best thing about painting for me is creating texture. Making it seem real or unreal, depending on subject matter. You have done a wonderful job of depicting this wave crashing. It makes noise, as all good art should…those white waterdrops all have purpose. That is what art is about Leslie…every part of the painting should have the great honor and duty of being a part of something bigger. I am so glad you are so good at it and that I can be a part of it.Β 

  26. I just had to come back to admire your waves and rocks, Leslie. The waves crashing on the rocks givens the feeling of cool water splashing. Lovely work!

  27. I love the texture on the rocks and the mysterious blue and purple on it~! It looks like a crocodile to me ~~~~
    haha a crocodile in the bubbles…OOOOOOOOO

    • You make me smile, Summer. Never thought of a crocodile, but it does look like one now that you’ve mentioned it. Thank you for that insight! πŸ™‚

  28. Leslie, sorry haven’t been here in a while. Lots of things happening. I see youre still working on rice paper, I like your wave – came out well! Uh-oh, the old white paint question…I say, to each their own! Sometimes it just makes sense to use it, for the most part I try not to..
    I also like the building in your subdivision, it has a nice feel to it!
    talk to you soon!!

    • No need to apologize, Frank. Drop by when you can. I agree with you that it is the “old white paint question” and that is how I am approaching it. If it works don’t knock it….if it doesn’t? don’t use it. I love this surface to work on, Frank. Maybe I have found a place to rest for awhile. It is fun and challenging and has caused me to explore even more. Thank you for the visit and comment!

  29. I can appreciate the purity that some watercolorists feel about using both black and white, however, there are no rules against using either. It’s funny how those “old saws” get started and become conventionalized.

    • I like how you put that, “old saws”. πŸ™‚ I would probably have guessed that, coming from you who uses everrything and anything found in your sculptures. πŸ™‚ Thank you!

  30. Beautiful painting with a winning color scheme. I remember when you gave me a color wheel and asked me to study my color schemes. Thank you, Leslie

    • Wow. Thank you for that, Jay. I have to remind myself of those schemes or I get so carried away that I end up with nothing at the end of the day.

  31. I liked reading about your toothbrush effect for leaving little spatter marks–very innovative, Leslie. Your wave crashing on the rocks came out beautifully!

  32. I hope that you are having a lovely Thursday Leslie πŸ™‚

    Androgoth XXx

  33. What a great technique for creating the spray of the wave crashing on the rocks. I really love the result!

    • Thank you, Amber. I had already begun painting this when I viewed your beautiful photo of waves and sky. You inspired me to try my best to get this.

  34. What a luminous painting ! I love the splatter and the wave, but your rocks are stunning!! What energy you have captured here !

    • Smile……. Remember when you asked me a couple years back when I was going to do a beach painting? I pulled this reference from Wet Canvas at that time. It took me this long to try it, Isabelle. Thank you!

  35. as usual, Leslie, nothing but admiration for your work. i am partial to shore, rocks and waves–to me your work intensified the beauty of the power in the waves. see you in a couple of weeks.

    • Hi Dave! Thank you for this! It has taken me this long to have the courage to try a scene like this……. Before now, I don’t think it would have looked like much and the masa helps me to try things I don’t think I can accomplish on a coldpress surface. I’m looking forward to class starting next week and getting together with all of you!

  36. This feels like it’s moving. Lovey and wild and blue. Thank you for laying out the processes on all these. It’s like an art appreciation class. Even if I never try these techniques out, I do value the work and understand better what went into its production … which I am sure is part of your goal here. Bravo! Well done in so many, many ways, Leslie.

    • Thanks, Jamie. I think most viewers of art would like to know what actually goes into an artist’s creations. Those who create long for new ways of representing that which they create. At least that is how I think, anyway. Thank you, Jamie!

  37. I seem to have missed this when you posted it, and I’m sorry about that, because it’s beautiful! (It’s always a surprise when I click on and open up your paintings to their full size in the browser screen – they’re always so stunning!) And I envy you being able to paint water. I wish, I wish, I wish I could paint waves…. they always defeat me, from waves with foam, to calm waves on sand or shingle. And d’you know it would help me so much in my photocolouring work to be able to work out how to see it so that I could paint it. That’s my main problem. Any suggestions?

    • Thank you for these comments, Val. I am thankful that you take the time to enlarge these paintings. I think it often shows more of the artist’s handiwork and there are always surprises there. I have not painted a lot of water. It has always been an element surrounding another scene, so to speak. I find the same challenge with skies. What I did with this was to concentrate on the values and the shapes. I had to soften many of the edges as I went along. After I had the wave crashing and surrounding waters, I splattered and splattered and splattered some more with two different small size brushes. Part of what really makes this work is the crackling of the masa. Shape and value and soften edges + add something quirky. I think that’s the recipe for a wave. πŸ™‚

  38. Stunning painting; I love your technique
    Thanks for the tips πŸ™‚

  39. Would you / do you sell your work? I am interested. Contact me at

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  1. By Splashing Wave | Leslie White on 10 Jan 2015 at 8:52 pm

    […] have painted this wave once before on masa paper here. This time I wanted to try something a little different. I had read in a book titled […]

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