In most cases , the face of a wave is a window to what is under (or in) the water. On a clear day with clear water you will see the bottom (sand rocks etc). If the water is murky you will see the "colour" of the water. The steeper the wave, the greater the view you have of what is beneath the surface.
The back of the wave reflects whatever is roughly behind it. The colours of a sunset or low clouds will show up there.
Waves are made up of ....... waves. Some of you have noticed that a wave is rarely ever perfectly smooth. Close observation will show that those "bumps" are in fact smaller waves and as such are subject to the rules 1 and 2. A stormy, windy day will emphasise those smaller waves, often to the point where the underlying swell is almost lost amongst the chaos of movement.
Despite the fact that waves take on many different shapes and moods, the above rules apply when painting waves, no matter the circumstances.
These are probably the three most important things to consider when painting waves. Let's file that information, and look at a couple of photographs to see whether that holds true.
So far, we're discussing the aspects of an unbroken wave. The rules for a broken wave are entirely different. A broken wave is fundamentally aerated water. To varying degrees, it is pretty much opaque. This means that it casts shadows. Sometimes these shadows are cast on the whitewash itself. Sometimes if the water is clear enough, and in the right light, the shadow will be cast on the bottom.
Start looking at whitewash in detail. It's not a bad idea to take some photographs and see if you can find the "structure" and shapes that whitewash makes. Lucky for us that when you find it, a loose pattern becomes obvious. Look for the shadows? Where are they darker? This discovery will take much of the discomfort out of painting it.
The thing that will make the most difference about painting whitewash is the light. For all intents and purposes because whitewash is "white", it will reflect lots of the colours around it. Remember the homework? You watched waves with that spectacular sunset, remember the colour the whitewash was tainted. This can be one of the most magnificent experiences. Absorbing that subtle "peach" shade can be intoxicating as it dances toward you. Life is good.
The steeper and more powerful a wave, the higher the whitewash will bounce. If a wave travels into shallow water very quickly, it will rear up steeply, turn over itself projecting its tip forward. This will hit the water in front and will bounce, up and forward, trapping lots of air. A very powerful wave will "bounce" its whitewash higher than the face of the wave.
Sometimes the wave will have so much force that the air trapped inside it will explode out the back. This can drag up sand and weed. A steeply breaking wave will form a wonderful tube. This is, for me, one of the most compelling things about painting waves. As someone who surfs, 'tis a magical thing.
A wave with less energy, will crumble over itself and the whitewash will not be higher than the face of the wave.
So....... steep powerful waves will have a high whitewash "wall", gentler ones a smaller "wall" of white water.
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