Harbour and boats watercolor sketches. [Brest and Camaret-sur-Mer, France]

What if I took you discovering some Breton lovely harbors ? 😙

It was not on purpose but I had the chance to sketch two of them during the past weeks so I thought I should share my sketches with you. Boats and harbour are so interesting to paint! 😀



First of all, a few weeks ago, I spent a whole day in Brest and filled 5 pages of sketchbooks with watercolors!! ☺️

I took the chance to submit an article to the Urban Sketchers blog about Brest architecture and harbour and it has been published a few days ago. You may have already read it?! 😌


To read the article and see my sketchbook pages, please click on the pic above, or here! 😊


Then, last Saturday, I was in Camaret-sur-Mer, another beautiful town in Brittany… with a lovely harbour, of course!! 😉
There was a meeting organized by a group of Urban Sketchers there. The day was really enjoyable!

I first sketched a distant view of the harbour.
I am not sure I ever attempted to tackle this kind of subject with all the boats piled up so I simplified and sketched only a few. 😉


This place is really special, as there is a small church on a pier. The tower, called “La Tour Vauban” was built by the famous French Architect Vauban. As you can see, I was in a “keep it loose and abstract” mood, that day! 😉

The gorgeous purplish color in the clouds (the right hue is the one on the pic below) is Moonglow, from Daniel Smith. 😊



The colorful shapes I painted, near the church, are some impressive beautiful wrecks.
So, I headed for the pier to paint on one of them! 😊

These ships are so huge (see the first pic of the article), it was not easy to make one fit in my yet big sketchbook! 😅

In my opinion, boat curves are difficult to catch…
I was rather happy with this one, though ; I think it doesn’t look too wonky, what do you think?! 😁


This sketch looks “dryer” than the previous one as I used some dry brushes effects to express the texture of the rusty weathered old wreck.

And what do you think about this close-up view of the left part of the wreck sketch?! 😊
For me, the looseness is really pleasing. I would like to be able to create small loose vignette like that in the fields to go with my bigger sketches.


And these melting colors for the water and the sand… I wish I knew how I did that!!! 😂

By the way, I hope you don’t think this is some show-off when I say “I like that in my sketch”. 😳😉
In my opinion, it’s reaaaaaally important to be able to like some parts of our works, even if they are never perfect, because always criticizing our sketches and thinking they are not good enough is just discouraging.

My approach is : Of course my watercolors are not perfect and I have always in my mind (like you 😜) the “I should have done that” or “I shouldn’t have done that” or “this area is messed up” thoughts BUT I keep fighting them with positive encouraging thoughts like “I had fun doing this and it’s the most important thing”, or “How lovely are the colors just there!” or even “Hey, I almost can feel inspired, looking at my own work : I should use again this approach / this color mixing / this way to paint this subject for another piece!”. 😊

So, just a reminder : don’t forget to enjoy the happiness watercolor brings to us.
Always criticizing it is ungrateful!! 😜


I hope you liked this artistic walk in the lovely harbors of Brittany.
As a conclusion, here are a few more Breton boat sketches from my archives, as a further inspiration. ☺️



Thank you for following and encouraging me during this creative journey! 😌

14 thoughts on “Harbour and boats watercolor sketches. [Brest and Camaret-sur-Mer, France]

    • Eh eh eh 😉 Moonglow is a really great color, especially if you use it with enough water and make it move a bit on the paper (tilted paper). This makes the colors separate.

  1. Hello Anne-Laure
    I really enjoy your blog and water sketches. I don’t think it sounds boastful to point out what works well in your sketches….it’s a good reminder and model of looking for the fun and joy in creating and not to get discouraged by other distractions. In the four grouping above I really love the one in the lower left of the small distant sailboat, with the rainbow colors at the horizon. It reminds me of the full spectrum of colors that the sea mist and clouds give. I live in the desert, and love to see sketches of seaside scenes. Thank youfor your lovely and thoughtful posts.

    • Thank you so much Pat!
      Joy of creating is the most important.

      When we look closely at things, at our surroundings, we figure out that there are much more colors than we thought.
      I always push them a bit to make them appear, changing a beige into yellow, a grey into purple or blue and so on.

  2. Bon jour, Anne-Laure:

    Do you always paint directly, without any preliminary pencil sketches? Or do you make some paint marks to get started before the actual painting?

    I love your fresh and free style and am still thinking about India, but something closer to the US (like France!) would be great.


    • Nancy, I always paint straight with watercolor without any pencil guidelines. A pencil sketch gives me the impression of doing some coloring in and makes my painting look tighter. I like to create the shapes straight with the brush, the edges of the shapes being the “lines”, the drawing part.

      I don’t make paint marks either but I noticed Marc Taro Holmes do that when sketching straight with the brush. Because he is used to drawing first, I guess. He needs some guidelines.

      Maybe we are going to think about a workshop in France. I think it could indeed be a great project!
      I am really happy that you envision to attend a workshop with me. ☺️

  3. The boat scenes are delightful. Bravo for the courage to explore different techniques and subject matter. In life we are better than some and not as skilled as other….therefore we practice and enjoy.

    • Thanks Linda! Yes, the most important is not skill / talent, it’s practice and having fun with it!
      Eventually, we are getting better at what we do, so let’s paint and paint again!!!!!!

      Exploring techniques is really fun. These days, I feel a bit shy with the idea of trying to depict a subject (I feel lazy lol! ) and it helps that I decide that the sketch is just for the fun of playing with pigment, with the watercolor flow. To try a technique, an effect…
      The focus of expression and technique can be really restful.

  4. More gorgeous sketches of a beautiful French harbour! The saturation of your colors in both the sky, water and sand are brilliant. Using the color ‘moonglow’ in the sky and reflections set the mood of this painting along with the person walking on the boardwalk. It’s lovely, and I especially enjoyed the additional history regarding the church, tower, and wrecked boats. The colors used in the “rusty weathered old wreck” are striking as is the texture.

    Perfect? What is that? Whatever it is – it doesn’t appeal to me. I like “spontaneous, splatters, crooked lines, wonky” – that’s what makes a painting.
    Keep liking your sketches and enjoying the creative journey as that’s what it’s all about. Thanks for the “creative walk through the harbour of Brittany”.

    • Thank you so much Karla, you are so kind!
      I am happy you liked the sketches and the article. ☺️

      I like, too, imperfect things and I don’t like when my sketches seem tight and “too pretty”.

  5. Hi Anne-Laure. These are just beautiful. Your freshness and use of color make me smile! There is so much energy and life in all your sketches and I am so inspired! I am really looking forward to meeting you in Manchester.

    • Hi Cathy, thank you!!! I am happy to make you smile. ☺️
      These days, I make watercolor flow and my paper and drip on the ground… It would probably make you laugh!!!

      I am looking forward to see your smile in Manchester! 😉
      We should think about something to meet. Do you use Viber or things like that on your phone? Would you be able to use this in England to keep in touch?

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