Apr 21, 2014 - Crafts, Recycle & Reuse    11 Comments

DIY Ocean Art

Once again I profess my love of the ocean.  This time in my DIY Ocean Art.  I have wanted to do a giant work of art on a canvas for a while and have been shopping for a good deal on canvases.  They were all so expensive!  I had made one in the past and thought I might go that route again until I found a giant canvas at Burlington Coat Factory that was on clearance for $20.  It was a photo of a lotus blossom and lily pads.  The photo was okay, but I had bigger plans for the canvas itself.  I propped it up on it’s side over my fireplace.  It fit the space beautifully.

DIY Ocean Art

That’s when I decided to create  my own abstract painting of the ocean for my summer beach theme.  I had seen a few similar that I loved, one from ZGallerie and others around town, but none fit quite right or had the colors that I was looking for.  Okay, who am I kidding, I couldn’t afford any of the ones I wanted anyway!  I ran to Michael’s and started shopping.  I purchased 13 small craft paints in the color scheme I wanted, each for 59 cents.  I also bought a large tub of gesso to prep the canvas.  I chose one that could “hide” the photo underneath.  At JoAnn’s I picked up a gloss varnish that I used at the end of the project.  I already had two inexpensive flat brushes and a small trowel, all of which were necessary to create the finished product.


  DIY Ocean Art from Burlap and Denim

 I started by covering the entire canvas with the gesso.  I sloped it on using a larger paintbrush (not pictured above) and then used my mini trowel to create horizontal texture.  I wasn’t too careful about how it would all lay out, I just wanted to cover the original picture and give the canvas depth.


  DIY Ocean Art



Here is a view of the canvas with the gesso all over.  I only did one coat.  It wasn’t completely solid white, but that didn’t matter in the end.  I was sure to continue the texture around the wrapped edges of the canvas.  This took about an hour or two to complete.


  DIY Ocean Art

I drew a faint line with a pencil about 1/3 of the way down to be my horizon line and then another 1/3 lower the line where the water met the sand.  The sand line ended up being a bit shorter, more like 25% with the water taking up more space.  I started with the horizon, painting a navy blue line straight across using the paint brush.  Then after a few inches a lighter blue, then a few inches and so on till I got to the white.

DIY Ocean Art

Then using only the trowel, I picked up little bits of paint starting with the navy section and skidded it across the texture I had created with the gesso.  I went one shade lighter than the navy and carried it down through 2 or 3 colors.  Then I followed it up with the next lighter color blending them over and over.

DIY Ocean Art


For the sand I painted three colors of tans and grays in soft wispy horizontal lines.  Once they dried I used the trowel to add detail by just scraping it over the previously laid paint.  I used light creams and whites add highlights.

DIY Ocean Art

 The sky was a mix of two blue paints and white.  It has the least detail since it is the farthest away.  I softly brushed and blended the three colors together up from the horizon.

When I was shopping for the colors of paints for my art work I didn’t notice that some of them had a shiny finish while others were matte.  This let me to buy the gloss varnish.  It worked out better than I could have imagined!  With a large paint brush, I covered the entire painting two times with it, keeping my strokes horizontal.

DIY Ocean Art

The gloss varnish made it so that all of the texture that I added in the beginning with the gesso showed through.  This is a real painting and the glossy finish reminds you of that every time it shimmers.

DIY Ocean Art


And with the subject being the ocean, when it catches the light just right it gives you the illusion that the sun is shinning and shimmering right off the water.

DIY Ocean Art

 I accessorized it with a few jars of actual sea sand and love it’s new home above my fireplace for the summer.

DIY Ocean Art-5


  • You did a great job!

  • WOW your painting is fantastic, love it so much. You are very talented and for the price of paints, canvas, gesso and varnish you have a one of a kind painting. My Dad was a pretty good oil painter but alas, his talent didn’t make it to me. Love your painting.

    • JaneEllen, I took an oil painting class in college and really enjoyed it, but I figured the cost of the paint would kill the project. You can’t beat the price of craft paint!

  • Amanda,
    I have been wanting to tackle such a painting my self for a long time! You
    just gave me the confidence to “Just do it!”
    I am going to look at yard sales for a cheep canvas today!
    I love all your Ideas!

  • Looks awesome!

  • Awesome. You did a great job.

  • I love to just sit and look at the ocean for long periods of time. This image have some of the same effects on me. Looks very natural and real!

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