Sketchbook Club: How to Paint a Whale

In our next online art class with illustrator Jennie Maizels, learn how to paint a magical whale under the sea

To help fill our days with creativity, we asked a group of our talented artist friends to share workshops, draw-alongs and more.

In this easy-to-follow painting tutorial, illustrator Jennie Maizels will help you recreate her beautiful mixed media whale at home.

You will need

An HB pencil
A set of acrylic paints
A set of watercolour paints
A set of gouache paints
Size 1 and 6 paintbrushes
A piece of white chalk or pastel
White gel pen (optional)

Step by step instructions


2. Then, transfer just the whale onto your page as per the instructions and draw in your wavy sea line. Then you are ready to add colour.

3. Start by painting in the sky a lovely thick aqua blue acrylic, as this will be a nice contrast to the blues of the watercolour whale.

4. Next, paint the sea a darker version of your aqua-blue sky. I did this by adding some dark green acrylic, making little pointy waves if you wish. We are using acrylics as they are plastic based, so make a wonderful surface for the gouache reeds, fish and splashes, as the pigments in the gouache don’t try to mix with the plastic acrylics.

5. Once the acrylics dry, start to paint the whale’s upper blue section. Do this by first making this area really wet, working fast so it doesn’t dry. Then drop intense blobs of blue pigment onto the wet surface. Let the watercolour really work it’s magic, the more blobby and watery the better.

6. Once it’s dried a tiny bit but not completely, try adding some more dots and blobs in darker colours, making sure the paint is really watery. Now, leave the whale alone and allow the watercolour to dry.

7. Whilst waiting for the whale to dry, you can paint in your reeds or corals at the bottom of the sea bed. Do this in two layers, starting with a darker (or lighter, whichever you prefer) and adding another contrasting layer once the paint is dry.

8. Add highlights using a much paler colour to add to the underwater feel.

9. Now you’re ready to paint the underbelly, do this in the same way as the blues but with pale warm dots, be careful to avoid the blue section, so the colours do not run.

10. Next, paint in your little shoal of fish by copying some of the fish on the reference sheet, pencil them in first and be sure to use a nice bright colours.

11. Now, paint in the whale’s waterspout and splashes and all the highlights on the waves. You can do this by using white gouache and a size 1 brush, or by using a white gel pen.

12. Now, making sure the paint is all dry, transfer the flying fish above the whale’s head. Then paint them using gouache paints and adding any details using a fine brush (or white gel pen).

13. Paint in the whale’s eyes and mouth, first in black and then highlighting in white, using either white paint or gel pen.

14. Finally, once you are sure everything is dry, add some shafts of light using a white chalk or a white chalky pastel, working in the rays with your finger and adding more where needed. Position the rays in a fan shape, making them sharper at the top and more smudgy further down.

15. For the finishing touches, you might like add a few white gel pen or fine painted dots and details.

And there you have it, your finished masterpiece!

I did mine on a piece of A3 paper drawing round an A4 piece fist, so I can pop it in a frame. But I think you’ll agree, it really does make for a special addition to your sketchbooks too! I loved how different everybody’s was when we did this in my studio, people used lots of different colours and styles and I cannot wait to see yours!

About Jennie

Jennie Maizels is a Hampshire-based illustrator who makes art accessible through her brilliant online Sketchbook Club®. She studied illustration at Central St Martins and went on to create fantastical window displays for Harvey Nichols, illustrate numerous pop-up books and design beautiful iron-on patches – or clothes plasters – to repair and personalise clothing and interiors.

Jennie has previously hosted art workshops in our Seasalt shops, so we were delighted when she agreed to share some online tutorials for our customers and staff. Her virtual art classes are suitable for all ages and abilities and you’ll learn lots of useful tips and tricks along the way.

We will be bringing you lots more from the Sketchbook Club® over the coming weeks and there are more tutorials available over on Jennie’s Sketchbook Club®.

We’d love to see your whale paintings! Show us what you create on Facebook or Instagram using #SeasaltArtsClub.