When you encounter whales in nature, you will not see the entire body exposed at one time, except in a rare dramatic breach. The rest of the time you will see some portion of the back or tail exposed above the water’s surface. Draw what you see, Capture the dark form of the whale against the lighter surface of the water. Know the sequence of dive shapes and what to expect to help you draw what you see quickly.
When a whale comes up from a dive, you will first see part of the head, then the spout, a section of back and the dorsal fin and then it is down again. The whale will probably take three or so breaths at the surface before commencing a deep dive. When it goes down for a long dive, the body bends near the dorsal fin, causing it to hump up, high above the water. This posture is followed by by a raised tail, which sinks into the water. Try to sketch each of these postures as you see them.
Click on the first image to start a step-by-step side-show.
Sketch the exposed whale profile as it emerges. Keep an eye out for the high hump posture before a deep dive.
After the spout, look for the exposed back and dorsal fin. The two illustrations on the left are Humpback Whales. The four on the right are Blue whales.
To make your whale look like it is in water, paint a graded wash around the whale form.
Here “water blobs” suggest the shape of waves on the surface. Note that they are larger and darker and more ” wavey” in the foreground.
Give the black body an irregular bottom edge to suggest waves splashing against the body.
A hint of whitecaps is all you need. Don’t overdo it. I use permanent white gouache to create effects like these in the field.
Lets look at suggesting water with line. One secret to successful waves is to avoid the cartoon water line. You want your wave line to be constantly inconsistent.
A more irregular water line is a little better, but not much. It still looks like you are seeing the edge of the water as you might in an aquarium, rather than the surface of the water.
My go-to water line is a looping, back and forth stroke. Leave some of the lines open, while creating closed spaces in other areas.
Add a few closed “wave marks” in the foreground. I know this does not look like water yet, but let’s see it around a whale…
Observe the difference in the lines in the foreground vs. background. What differences do you see?
Now make the bottom edge of the whale irregular. Now we are talking whale in water!
You could leave it as a line drawing or add tone. Here I start the tone with a graded wash around the whale shape.
Now color in some of the closed shapes to suggest the major swells.
Now add little ripples on top of the major swells to suggest the patterns from gusts of wind.
Add whitecaps. Note the difference in the foreground and background. Keep the wave marks consistently inconsistent.