"Mystic Blue": A Whale Tale

Acrylic Colleen Wilcox Humpback Original Art Painting Sea Life Whale

Magical, mysterious, magnificent humpback whales! I am so excited to have finally expressed my love and respect for these animals in my new published original, "Mystic Blue". Keep reading to find out the process behind this 24"x30" acrylic on canvas painting!

"Mystic Blue" 24"x30" acrylic on canvas by Colleen Wilcox 

I began this piece back in November of 2015, just at the start of whale season in Hawaii. Hoping for some real life inspiration, I scanned the waters daily for my first sighting. But the humpbacks were slow to arrive this season, and reports of sightings were only trickling in over the next two months. Finally on the last day of 2015, New Year's Eve, I was surprised by my first spout and tale slap off of Waikiki! 

My excitement over seeing whales that day was nothing new... I have been in love with these creatures for many years (who isn't, after all?). However for some reason I had never attempted to paint or draw a whale. When I finally committed to creating my first whale painting, I gathered many reference photos to render the proper body shape of a humpback. I wanted the actual whale figure to be mostly realistic, and its environment to be somewhat of a dreamscape (I typically like to have elements of realism mixed with fantasy in my work). 

I began with something like a "motif" to be the main focal area, and figured I would fill in outwards from there as I went along. I didn't have too many specific plans apart from the general color palette, and that I would include a variety of waves, swirls and bubble shapes. I basically was just figuring out my next move as I went along, and allowing my inspiration to come moment by moment.

For some extra "good luck", I kept my whale charm nearby, which was gifted to me by my Nana when I was a young girl (pictured below). 

I continued filling in all the white on the canvas with layers of watered down acrylic paint over the weeks that passed; playing with colors, experimenting with lines, and defining shapes in the area surrounding the whale figure. Once the Christmas season arrived, I was too busy with holiday orders to work on my whale piece, so I put it aside for some time. 

While painting "Mystic Blue", there were many areas that I re-did, sections I covered over, and lines and shapes that I took out. This painting was not without its frustrations! Because of my high hopes for this piece, I often found myself feeling stuck at certain points and wondering how to fix obvious aesthetic problems that I was viewing. It became apparent that creating a good composition out of a nebulous underwater scene was harder than I thought. 

I did my best to take breaks until I regained a state of mind more conducive to creating. I also used a list of descriptive words (as I often do) to keep the mood of my painting in focus. From the beginning I knew I wanted the image to feel "magical, wonderous, mystical, dreamy, soulful, expressive, ethereal and intriguing" to name a few. 

I kept putting in the hours and became almost obsessive about the details in this painting; making sure I liked the way each curve/ line connected to the next, and adjusting how each color played off one another. I felt that I couldn't stop and that this painting might never be finished!

Finally after what I estimate to be a total of 160+ hours (over many months) I decided the whale had come far enough along its journey and was ready to be revealed to the world! Although at times the painting felt like effort, there were also times where I felt complete effortless flow...Moments when I felt lost in a magical realm of dreamy shapes and color where anything was possible. Moments that as an artist I live for! 

Here is me holding the finished piece, the original 24"x30" acrylic on canvas, "Mystic Blue." I hope you enjoyed learning a little about my process. If you would like to purchase the original click here. Prints will be ready shortly!

Until next time!





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  • Shelly Ivey on

    You are such an amazing artist. I just recently found you. I’m trying to figure out which painting I want to purchase, it’s such a difficult choice because they are all so wonderful! I’ve never actually purchased someone else’s painting because I as well am an artist, with acrylics as my favorite choice and my house is filled with my own paintings. But seeing your work I just have to have one! I also have done a lot with alcohol ink. In fact, I’ve been doing alcohol ink for the last year or so. I am bored with it now and was really wanting some inspiration for starting a new acrylic painting. That’s when I came across you. You have inspired me so much that my painting very much reflects your style. Don’t worry, I’m not selling it. My daughter doesn’t know but I’m doing it for her birthday. I’m going to be redecorating her room as a surprise, and going with a sea/tropical inspired design.(which is pretty much my whole house!) I would love to tag you on instagram when I’m done just so you can see how your amazing ability inspired me to step out and paint like I’ve never painted before. Blending colors into a multi-faceted painting has never occurred to me in this fashion. I guess I’m like most artists, you get your style and then it sometimes becomes hard to transition into trying something new. Anyways, sorry I babbled but just know your art is gorgeous and inspiring to this cold Alaskan! Many Blessings! ~Shelly

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