Abstract Seascape Paintings and Ocean Art

Abstract Seascape Paintings and Ocean Art

Abstract seascape paintings are probably my overall favourite when it comes to both my own art and the artworks of other artists. 

Something about the sheer size, scope and drama of the sea has captivated the human imagination for centuries, inspiring so many artists to create stunning representations of its beauty, mystery and destructive power.

Abstract seascape paintings occupy a unique place within the art world, offering a fresh perspective on the ever-changing nature of the ocean. Perhaps a more raw and honest portrayal of such fluidity than a simply static and representational one.

In this blogpost, I want to take a closer look into the world of abstract seascape art, exploring the some of best seascape painters, as well contemporary abstract artists, as well as some of the essential elements of seascape art.

Abstract Seascape Paintings

Abstract Seascape Paintings For Sale

Before we begin I'd just like to take the time to say I have some abstract seascape paintings of my own inspired by the Irish Sea and Belfast Lough views from my coastal home in Bangor County Down. I would also be happy to tailor an art commission to suit your tastes on the theme of ocean art (or another painting theme).

Click the link for my art commissions gallery and get in touch if you are interested. 

Abstract Seascape Paintings 'Ballyholme Bay'

Modern Abstract Seascape Paintings

Departing from the traditional representation of serene coastlines and tranquil waters, the best of these artworks plunge us into a realm of creative interpretation, where the sea itself becomes a canvas for artistic expression.

The sky and sea are in a constant state of change, and I think that abstract seascapes should reflect this. I prefer dynamic brushstrokes and a sense of movement to portray the push and pull of the tides and winds that are constantly at play.

Bold and vibrant colours and mark-making can help to shape the best abstract paintings, although sometimes more muted colours can be used to great effect to capture a more sombre mood which may be appropriate for certain seasons and times of day.

I particularly like the seascapes of Gerhard Richter and the way that he deliberately blurs aspects of the sea and sky. I like the way many of his seascapes show a great expanse of sky and a smaller amount of the sea, which lends a beautiful sense of space and air. 

I also like the freedom of interpretation that abstract ocean painting allows for because the sea, art and life are fluid and open to constant reinterpretation. 

Modern abstract seascape paintings challenge our perceptions, ignite our emotions, and engage us in a dialogue about the beauty and power of the sea.

Who is the Best Seascape Painter?

Determining the "best" seascape painter is subjective and can vary greatly depending on individual tastes and preferences. However, throughout art history, several artists standout in this field.

One of the most renowned seascape painters is J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851), a British artist whose work vividly captured the power and grandeur of the sea. Turner's ability to convey the ever-shifting moods of the ocean through his use of colour and light is often considered unmatched.

Seascape Painting By Turner

Another notable figure is Winslow Homer (1836-1910), an American artist celebrated for his masterful seascapes. Homer was an American Realist painter who is known for his paintings of the American landscape, including many seascapes. His seascapes often depict the harsh realities of life on the sea, as well as the beauty and power of the natural world.

Abstract Seascape Paintings - Homer's 'The Fog Warning'

I personally think some of the best seascapes have been done in a impressionistic style by Claude Monet (e.g. 'Sunrise' which is essentially abstract in places) or the post-impressionistic 'Seascape at Saintes Marie' by Van Gogh.

Seascape Paintings Monet

Abstract Seascapes Paintings - Van Gogh's Seascapes

Contemporary Seascape Artists

Some contemporary seascape artists that I particularly like would include the Australian abstract painter Katie Wyatt, the more representational British artist Paul Evans and the Irish abstract artist Jenny Fox.

I also like David Hockney's seascapes, especially 'Early Morning, Sainte-Maxime,' which recently sold at a Christies auction for $23.5 million!

What Makes a Good Seascape Painting?

A good seascape painting should be able to engage the viewer on multiple levels, whether it is a representational seascape painting or an impressionistic or abstract piece.

Here are some key elements that could contribute to the success of a seascape artwork:

  • Emotion and Atmosphere -  A compelling seascape painting should evoke emotion and have a clear mood and atmosphere. It could be the calming or even ethereal mood of sunrise over sea or it could be a more turbulent and dark seascape at night or during a storm.
  • Composition - The composition should help to guide the viewer's eye and create a sense of balance and perspective within the artwork. The placement of elements such as the horizon line, waves, and focal points is essential. A wider expanse of sky can convey a sense of space for example. 
  • Colour Palette - The choice of colors plays a significant role in conveying the mood and atmosphere of the seascape. Cool blues and greens are commonly used to depict the sea, while warmer hues can be used to emphasise sunrise or sunset scenes. For a winter or night sea scene darker and more muted colours will be best. 
  • Texture and Brushwork - The texture of the painting's surface and the artist's brushwork can add depth and character to the artwork. Thick impasto strokes may represent the ruggedness of waves, while smooth, blended areas can create a sense of calm. Bold dynamic mark-marking can depict a sense of movement and drama.

What Is Seascape Art?

Seascape art is essentially an artwork that depicts the ocean as the main subject matter. Seascape art can be representational e.g. such as in the work of William Turner, impressionistic e.g. Monet's 'Sunrise,' or abstract in nature such as the modern Irish artist Jenny Fox.

Sometimes there are boats, birds or even people in seascapes but the central focus is still the sea itself.

Seascape art is a genre of visual art that focuses on capturing something of the essence and beauty of the sea, as opposed to landscape art which focuses on capturing the land. 

Elements of Seascape Art

Some of the elements that can help to define seascape art would be:

  • Water - The sea is the central element in seascape art, and its depiction is crucial. Artists often experiment with various techniques to represent the sea's movement, colour, and depth.
  • Sky - The sky is another essential element, contributing to the overall mood of the seascape. Whether it's a clear, sunny day or a stormy, overcast one, the skies above play a significant role in seascape art.
  • Horizon Line - The horizon line (where the sea meets the sky) is often an important element in seascape art. Its placement can affect the composition and balance of the artwork. Sometimes a more abstracted seascape may not have a clear horizon but there is usually some sort of implied horizon or it makes it difficult for the viewer's eye to follow.
  • Landforms - In many seascape paintings, landforms such as cliffs, beaches, or shorelines provide context and perspective. There are exceptions to this such as Gerhard Richter's 'Seascape (Seestück),' but landforms are often part of a seascape 
  • Light and Reflections - The interplay of light on the water's surface, as well as reflections, often help to add depth and realism to seascape art.

What is the Difference Between Landscape and Seascape Painting?


The main difference between landscape and seascape painting is that landscape painting depicts the natural world in general, while seascape painting depicts the sea specifically. Landscape paintings may include the sea, but they may also include other elements such as mountains, rivers, forests, and fields. Seascape paintings, on the other hand, focus solely on the sea.

Abstract seascape paintings can be a beautiful and evocative way to bring the sea into your home or office. If you are looking for a piece of art that will capture the essence of the sea, consider an abstract seascape painting.

Contemporary Abstract Seascapes

Click the link if you would like to see more examples of my own contemporary abstract seascapes. If any of the seascape paintings that you like have sold I can collaborate with you for an art commission for a painting in a similar style. Prints are also available on request.

Contact me at orlagilkesonart@gmail.com. 

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