Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Behind the Art: Rough Sea

Quite often rough weather is a contributing factor in a ship coming to grief either on the rocks or out at sea.  So it is reasonable to depict shipwrecks in a setting of rough, windblown waves. Such is the painting of the wreck of the steamship “Kings County”.

In a boisterous sea, it goes without saying that there is a lot more foam blowing out on the tops of the waves.  So the blue in the water is paler, especially as you look out across it, with more whitish foam scudding across in the wind.

In the close-up of the area between the ship and the shore, you may notice that the waves look more irregular and frantic.  What we have here is the reflection of waves back and forth between the ship and shore.  So the waves do not have the regularity of breakers coming into shore from outside, nor the measured balance of waves offshore either.

Waves are both simple and complex. They are simple in that there is a balance between crests and troughs, if you were to flatten the crests and build up the troughs the resulting water would be level.  But on this simplicity we have the complex harmonics of wavelets on waves, which make the waves “rough”.  And to add further complexity, when a waves reaches too sharp a peak it falls over, giving us a “breaker”.  So when you add all this complexity to waves, you have a rough sea. Yet even in a rough sea, we need to feel that there is an overall balance to be believable.

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