The Sea, graphite drawing

This particular scene wasn’t exactly what I had in mind for my next drawing – a beautiful floral was picked out.  But then I saw an amazing photograph that my friend, John Warren, had on pmp and I couldn’t resist.  So here is a little summertime tease ~

The Sea, is a graphite drawing (4.5 x 12) done on Strathmore Bristol Vellum using 4H, 2H, HB, B and 2B and loose graphite powder.  A tortilium was used to blend and spread the graphite, then it was partly erased and then back to laying down more graphite until it reach enough coverage as well as the correct value ranges for each area within the scene.  These layers help build the water and foamy spray to a sufficient level allowing several value levels to develop (deep and shallow water), as well as making the spray and foam highlights pop.  Once done I went back in with very sharp pencils 4H and 2H to develop a richness with the background water.

The reference shot was in color and the original scene larger, so I cropped it for a close-up of the wave and drew it in graphite – both changed the look totally.

At some point I may draw this scene in a larger size, but until then I hope you enjoy my little reminder of what awaits you at the shore – click onto the image for a larger size.

The Sea


About Mary

Oil Pastelist
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100 Responses to The Sea, graphite drawing

  1. Such a long time I haven’t opened WordPress, I realize how much I’ve missed out! Such beautiful work, you’ve really been busy…
    Love it all, keep it up!

  2. I’m just back from an holiday trip to South Italy. We were on an island (Ischia) and last week end there has been a strong storm. As consequence next day the sea was very rough and the waves reminded me of your drawing. What can I add? only…wow!

    • Mary says:

      What an amazing compliment Robert, thank you so much. To think that the real thing reminded you of one of my drawings has made my day and means a lot. I can hear the roar, smell the sea and taste the salt through your words – I’ll bet it was a magnificent sight. Thank you ~

  3. texastom46 says:

    Again, stunning in detail.

  4. Jane Lurie says:

    Wonderful sense of movement. Exciting pieces, Mary.

  5. Wow, awesome. You captured the majesty of the waves perfectly.

  6. dsaquarelles says:

    Magnificent drawing! With only pencils you make wonderful things!

  7. You can actually feel and see the movement in the water! Fantastic!

    • Mary says:

      Thanks so much Elizabeth – love your reaction to the scene. Anytime you can feel the sea through my work, well that is an incredible compliment. Thank you again – hope you have a great week ahead!

  8. I can almost feel the sound of the rushing waves! Wonderful creation, Mary… 🙂

    I just read your comment above ( in response to John’s question) and understand how much time you give for attaining this perfection…hats off! ❤

    • Mary says:

      Hi Maniparna, thank you for your generous comment and reaction to the scene – it was a great one to work out with the pencils. John had a good question, isn’t it interesting to see how similar and different our two creative outlets are.

  9. dorannrule says:

    Ooooh…. I can feel the sea breeze and hear the sound of the waves pounding the shore! Lovely rendering Mary….. as always.

  10. Mary, you know already how I love your seascapes, but this one leaves me breathless! It is as if the sea itself drew it.

  11. exiledprospero says:

    The ocean in grisaille. Grisaille is an art term meaning beautifully effervescent (no it isn’t–but it could easily have been if the French had been paying attention).

    • Mary says:

      I think you are so right Prospero – there is something extraordinarily beautiful and sometimes elegant in various ranges of gray. Too bad for the earlier French artists and critics. But I love your reaction, thank you!

  12. ladyfi says:

    Wonderful feeling of movement and fluidity.

  13. Water will always be your best element, you mastered it exceptionally to the point of perfect perfection. There is such a powerful, attractive force pulling us into the dynamics of this liquid element that is hard not to have an emotional reaction to it. The way you move, flow and immerse yourself with your tools is mirroring back straight into our minds and makes us move as one with the waves and that is remarkable to say the least!
    There are so many parts and details where I could go on to describe, but I feel it wouldn’t be appropriate to fracture the whole and pick parts, it is too perfect as one beautiful dynamic breathtaking seascape! Much love~Eva

    • Mary says:

      For me there is no better compliment than when someone views my work and feels the elements of the moving sea, as well the emotional aspects that went into developing a forceful wave like this crashing onto the shore – thank you so much Eva. Your encouraging assessment and positive reaction to the drawing has made my day. There are many technical aspects that I need to continue working on and will only come by continuing to reinforce those elements from drawing more of these types of scenes, it feels good to know I’m headed in the right direction. Have a wonderful weekend ~

  14. Leyla says:

    I love this work 🙂

  15. Wonderful drawing Mary! I like the power of the wave. It makes me miss the ocean! ~Rita

    • Mary says:

      Thanks Rita. It was a really neat wave to develop using graphite, especially the area of transparency. You and me both miss the power of the sea!

  16. Wonderful dynamic drawing of something so fluid and fleeting….so well done✨

  17. Susan Feniak says:

    Awesome! I can hear the gulls and waves crash. Flowers can wait for another day.

  18. Oh, I love this Mary! It certainly pages all senses. Mesmerizing! I’m transfixed. But where are the sea lions?! I recently got walk to the Point Bonita Lighthouse. I could not stop staring at the waves. Truly relaxing. As always, thanks for Retreat! ~Theadora

    • Mary says:

      Oh I’m so glad to read your reaction Theadora, makes my day. I hope you stay awhile and take in the fast moving and crashing waves – could get a bit chilly out there. Ah the sea lions were rather shy this day, but not too worry they will be sunning up on the rock in no time. Oh what a magnificent lighthouse – truly one to see! So glad you enjoyed yoru retreat my friend.

  19. This is incredible – it’s so dynamic. I can feel the wind tugging at my jacket, and the salty spray on my face. Wonderful!

    • Mary says:

      Wow Silver, I love your description. Yes better hang on tight, the wind would really be whipping, raw and stinging, with the wind and salt hitting you. Thanks very much –

  20. Antonia says:

    This is gorgeous and I love the detail in the wave 🙂

  21. ramaink says:

    Tremendous movement! I can almost hear the wave crashing! 🙂

  22. Brilliant waves, Mary! Excellent technique, my dear friend! 🙂

  23. I love how you’ve somehow expressed the sea spray, foam and their movement.

  24. Paul Beech says:

    Ah, Old Briny! Can’t wait to disgrace myself by rolling up my jeans to splash and leap in the rollicking, revelling summer waves! Love the drawing, Mary.

    Take care,


  25. Your way with graphite is sublime, Mary.

  26. The movement here is wonderful, Mary. It can be felt

  27. Anonymous says:

    Mary – you just get ever better. I admire the way you use your descriptions to provide teaching points to those wanting to learn the medium.

    • Mary says:

      Thank you for your very generous and thoughtful comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the drawing process for this scene – I learned through others and am only too happy to pass on aspects that I hope others might use. Thanks again!

  28. “I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky.” 🙂 Love this one, Mary. Brilliant drawing.

  29. I enjoy hearing “how you do it” and seeing your wonderfully realistic and artistic result. Success!

  30. Mary, such stunning work! It doesn’t matter which medium you choose, the result is spectacular, particularly as Debi said, with seascapes. I can almost feel the wind in my hair, so amazing is your rendering. Bravo, my friend!

    • Mary says:

      Thanks very much Laura, you are always so generous and enthusiastic in your response to my work – means a lot. A very big compliment when someone can feel the subject, in this case the wave – a big thanks to you!!

  31. Nicodemas says:

    Wonderful drawing Mary! We can feel the wave breaking.

  32. Trini Lind says:

    So so beautiful!! 💖💖

  33. Amy says:

    build the water and foamy spray… to bring the motions of the ocean waves, truly amazing! Thank you, Mary for sharing this beautiful drawing and taking time to explain the layers of detail process.

    • Mary says:

      Thanks Amy for your thoughtful response – there is something very exciting and relaxing when drawing the sea, I can feel the energy of the water. I’m never sure if people are interested in reading about my process, so I really appreciate that you mentioned it.

  34. cheating_with_death says:

    Ah, waves are my weakness. Something I definitely struggle with in the art world. Great job!

    • Mary says:

      Hi Cheating w/death, thank you and nice to hear from you. Appreciate where you are coming from – waves maybe a challenge, but I’m sure you’ll take them on. Please let me know if you want a few suggestions on books that I found and still find invaluable for painting/drawing the sea. Thanks again, I really appreciate.

  35. Miss Mary
    You’ve captured the energy and dynamism wonderfully

    Big hugs

    uncle john

  36. Resa says:

    Mary, you are so talented! This rendering is amazing! Thank you! ( & much respect!)

    • Mary says:

      Thank you Resa for your generous feedback. As you feel the material with thread and needle when creating your gorgeous gowns, I feel the waves and energy of the water – it’s what guides me when drawing the sea. Very cool with the similarities don’t you think?

  37. You have captured the movement of the ocean/waves so beautifully. A superb image…Mary…

    • Mary says:

      Thank you so much Janet – the movement is what I feel when I draw or paint the sea. It’s one of the “ah” moments. Have a wonderful evening.

      • You do it so well…I remember your talking about this after making an acrylic painting of the waves….the wonderful “ah” moment….may there be many more…janet.

        • Mary says:

          Like the runners’ endorphin rush – exactly and this drawing had many of those. Very cool, but you never know when it will occur, time to connect to another scene!! Have a beautiful weekend my friend!

  38. This brings to mind John Masefield’s poem “Sea Fever”, one of my favorites about the sea….especially the line that evokes the image of “…the flung spray and the blown spume….”

    • Mary says:

      That is fantastic Cynthia – I love it and what an amazing compliment – the line is perfect “the flung spray and blown spume,” John Masefield knew his sea. It gets no better, thank you my friend – you’ve made my evening.

  39. Wow! This is wonderful, Mary. It looks so real. Great job!

  40. debiriley says:

    Mary what emotion you convey when your subject is the sea!! It is breath taking! One day, you could fill us in on how the ocean has become such a powerful and Gripping, source for you. Every time I see your paintings and drawings of the water – I’m struck by the emotion you can pack in…and wonder, how this came to be! Amazing, beautiful, powerful. 🙂 cheers, Debi

    • Mary says:

      Thank you so much Debi and for your generous feedback. I really can’t way, except there has always been a pull toward large bodies of water, the ocean in particular. Nothing like watching the sea whether it was when I lived in San Francisco or Maine – no matter it became fascinating to me to watch. Love capturing the motion on paper or canvas – thank you!!

  41. Such creative, interesting detail, love the image you created.

  42. John says:

    Really nice work, amazing depth of field. Do you use a tool to determine a specific color range as with photography? Such as an RGB or Hex chart?

    • Mary says:

      Thanks very much John! Great question. I go into microsoft editor Photo Gallery and will make the photograph B&W and then play with the options for contrast and value ranges until it screams that’s it. Then it becomes my own drawing, from sketching to working those pencils for appropriate value ranges. Glad you enjoyed the piece!

      • John says:

        Interesting, I had no idea about this, it was a hunch. Amazing the similarities then, in the two forms of visual expression.

        • Mary says:

          I’m hoping I explained this correctly. The drawing here is an actual drawing from start to finish – the work I do on the computer is to the original reference image. As in this case it was a colored photograph of a full blown wave coming ashore and by cropping that reference image and changing it to B&W gave me a starting point to actually draw on paper ( with the graphite pencils) what I envisioned the scene to be, based off of what I did to the reference image. I hope that makes sense – what you see here is not a digitally enhanced image of the original reference but rather an actual drawing. Glad you enjoyed it John!

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