Painting Abstract Watercolor Landscapes Depicting Harbors with Boats

In this blog post, we will delve into the techniques and tips for painting abstract watercolor landscapes that capture the essence of a harbor scene, complete with the gentle bobbing of boats and the harmony of nature.

Watercolor painting is a captivating medium that allows artists to create stunning, expressive, and abstract representations of the world around them. Among the many subjects that watercolor artists enjoy exploring, harbors with boats offer a perfect blend of tranquility and dynamism.

Video tutorial

Let’s dive in to tips for painting abstract watercolor landscapes with boats and harbor

Let’s get started on an artistic journey as we delve into some essential tips for painting abstract watercolor landscapes featuring boats and harbors. Abstract watercolor art offers a unique and expressive way to capture the essence of these serene scenes.

Finding Inspiration

Before diving into the painting process, immerse yourself in the world of harbors and boats. Visit local harbors or research online for a plethora of images and videos that showcase different harbor settings. Take note of the play of light and shadow, the reflections in the water, and the variety of boat types that adorn the harbor.

Inspiration image
Inspiration image

Gathering Materials

Watercolor painting requires minimal but essential materials. Invest in high-quality watercolor paper, watercolor paints, brushes, a water container, and a mixing palette. Choose paper with a suitable weight, as it will determine how much water the paper can hold without buckling or warping.

Here’s an in-depth article for the best watercolor supplies we use and highly recommend.

Understanding Abstract Watercolor Techniques

Abstract watercolor landscapes offer an opportunity to break free from realism and create art that is expressive and emotional. Familiarize yourself with various watercolor techniques, such as wet-on-wet, wet-on-dry, dry brushing, and salt techniques, as they will play a crucial role in achieving the desired effect for your harbor scene.

Setting the Scene

Begin by sketching the basic layout of your harbor scene on the watercolor paper using a light pencil. Focus on creating a harmonious composition with the boats as the main focal point, balanced by the surrounding landscape elements. Remember, abstract art allows you to interpret and stylize the scene according to your vision.

Rough sketch for watercolor landscape
Rough sketch for watercolor landscape

Color Palette

Selecting an appropriate color palette is vital for setting the mood of your abstract harbor landscape. Opt for soothing blues and greens for the water and the sky, while adding subtle hints of warm hues to the boats and buildings. Earthy tones and grays can be used to depict the buildings and structures around the harbor.

I highly suggest experimenting with simplified color choices through my favorite technique, which involves two options: a chromatic palette or a tonal palette.

For a more vibrant and colorful approach, consider using a chromatic palette. With this option, each selected hue is saturated, giving your artwork a lively and energetic feel. For instance, you can opt for vibrant shades like violet or deeper blues for shadows, avoiding desaturated hues like grays or neutrals.

On the other hand, if you prefer a subdued and subtle look, a tonal palette would be more suitable. Tonal palettes create an overall grayish feel in your painting. You can achieve this by toning down color choices with complementary hues or by incorporating neutrals like neutral tint into your artwork. The end result will be a painting with less emphasis on bold colors, maintaining a harmonious and tranquil atmosphere.

Establishing Depth

To create depth and dimension in your harbor scene, use a technique called “layering.” Start by painting the background with lighter washes and gradually build up the layers, adding darker tones as you move towards the foreground. This method will give the impression of distance and receding elements.

Boats and Details

When it comes to boats, don’t get lost in meticulous detailing. Instead, use simple brush strokes to represent the boats’ shapes, and rely on the interplay of colors to create visual interest. Suggest the presence of masts, sails, and other boat features with delicate lines and shapes. Allow some white spaces to show the sparkle of light on the water and the boats.

Looking for more watercolor landscape painting ideas to inspire your next masterpiece?

Adding Life with Reflections

Reflections are an essential element of a harbor scene. To achieve a mesmerizing effect, paint the reflections of boats and structures with slightly lighter shades than the original objects. Use horizontal brush strokes to mimic the water’s ripples and add a touch of realism to your abstract creation.

Embrace Imperfections

Abstract art thrives on the uniqueness of each artist’s touch. Embrace the unpredictability of watercolors and don’t be afraid of imperfections. Let the watercolors blend and bleed into each other organically, adding to the charm and fluidity of your harbor landscape.

Painting Abstract Watercolor Landscapes Depicting Harbors with Boats
Choppy by Robert Joyner


Painting abstract watercolor landscapes depicting harbors with boats is an enriching and rewarding experience for any artist. It allows you to explore your creativity, experiment with various techniques, and express the serenity and energy of a harbor scene in your unique style. Remember, abstract art is all about emotions, so paint with your heart, and your artwork will undoubtedly resonate with others.

So, pick up your brushes, unleash your imagination, and set sail on a colorful journey to create captivating abstract watercolor harbor landscapes that leave a lasting impression on those who behold them. Happy painting!