Octopus thmb

Painting Octopus Rocks

Octopus Porthole
Surreal themes: 3D Octopus coming through a porthole

Recently I’ve been playing around with the idea that a whole world might be hidden inside of rocks. Just by adding a keyhole (or in this case a porthole) you can get a peek into another world. You never know what might be hiding in there. Here’s a few tips to painting a 3-D octopus and porthole rock.

Step One:
Find the Perfect Rock

Find a Nice Rock
Selecting the perfect rock for my painting. This one will be an octopus coming through a porthole

For this painting I chose a fairly smooth oval rock with some pleasing grey and white flecks that I thought would make a good background for my design. Wash all the dirt off and rinse well. If your rocks come from beaches or wet conditions, you will want to add a small amount of bleach to a bowl of water to kill off any live matter that may be sticking to the surface of the rock. Let the rock dry well, then cover both sides with a thin layer of sealant. I use Mod Podge waterbase sealer. This brings the luster out in the rock and prepares the surface for painting. Sealing the rock surface also helps when you make a mistake because you can use a damp paper towel or cotton swab to wipe away damp paint.

Franklin The Rockhound
Franklin surveying all the cool rocks we collected at Russian Gulch Creek Beach in Jenner, California.

The rock I used for this painting was found on a recent excursion we made to wild Sonoma Coast in Northern California with Franklin, our Miniature Schnauzer. Russian Gulch State Beach is nestled in a smallish cove where a creek breaks away from Russian Gulch and meets the sea. Getting to the beach from the parking lot is a bit of a hike through ferns and trees (think Jurassic Park) that opens up on the beach. Franklin is an avid and enthusiastic rockhound. Along with a lot of digging and frolicking, he helped me find a bunch of great sea-tumbled rocks to paint. You can read about our excursion and see more pictures in my Google Map review.

Step Two:
Main Shapes

Painting Octopus - Getting Started
Painting an octopus coming through a porthole - paint the porthole circle and add the tentacles.

I begin by sketching the general design on a paint pad, starting with the porthole circle. You can see my rough sketch of two octopus rocks on the drawing pad I use for painting.  This circle will determine the general dimensions and provide a reference point for other elements I add. The paint pot lids turned out to be the perfect size for the interior of the porthole. I trace the circle on the rock being sure to leave room for the tentacles. Then I paint the basic shapes using flat medium colors – navy for porthole that will become the water in the background, Flamingo Coral for tentacles.

Painting Octopus - Main Shapes
Painting an octopus coming through a porthole - add body shape and underside of tentacles.

Using darker orange – red hues I block in the shape of the octopus head. Rounded bumps on the top provide sockets where the eyes will go. As the octopus eyes are placed on either side of its “head” you will only see one eye at a time. I use lighter orange/pink hues to define the areas of the underside of the tentacles where the suckers will go. I purchased a batch of empty paint-pot strips with lids for mixing of gradients and small batches of color.

Step Three:
Shadows & Highlights

Painting Octopus - Textures
Painting an octopus coming through a porthole - add textures and metallic bands of the porthole

Using lighter and darker gradients, I add in the textures, highlights and shadows. The octopus is beginning to take shape! I use a flat paintbrush to add a band of gold, then a band of copper to form the porthole frame. The octopus eye is a pretty freaky-looking, yet cool detail. in searching out reference material I came across some interesting articles about eyes. I start with a gold dot and add a horizontal pupil with small dots on each side in a dark metallic color.

Painting Octopus - Details
Painting an octopus coming through a porthole - Use dotting tool to add suckers, add layered glazes for water

Using a dotting tool, I add rows of suckers to the tentacles. I used a thicker paint mixture with a pearl finish to give the suckers depth. Using a fine detail brush the background water area is layered with various glazes for depth and strands of seaweed. Add more highlights to the tops of the octopus using a lighter color orange or small gold dots, and shadows to the underside of the tentacles and areas of the body that are further away.

Step Four:
Final Details

Octopus Rock - Finished Painting!
Curious octopus sneaking through through a porthole - finished painting

Bolts are added to the porthole using a dark bronze dot with a smaller gold dot inside.  I then add shadows to make the tentacles appear to hover over the rock. Assume that the sunlight is coming from the top of the water, apply shadows to the lower right of the painting. I use a dark black/bronze paint that’s thinned down with lots of water. Use a slightly dampened sponge or paper towel to soften the edges of the shadows.When the painting is thoroughly dry, add a hard-finish indoor/outdoor clear sealant. I find that a spray paint is best for providing an even, durable coating.

Commissioned Octopus Rock
This guy found a home with someone who loves octopi (or is it octopuses?)

Now step back and admire your work. Time to release the Kraken!

Surreal Rocks
What's inside your rock? Perhaps a portal to space or under the sea? Retro-rockets, keyholes, portals, cephalopods, sunflowers, peacock feathers

Did you try this tutorial? Did it help you? I would love to hear from you with any questions or feedback in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

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