Coral Reef Series: The Making

“How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, Vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number- living things both large and small.” 
Psalm 104: 24-25

After two months of hard work, I am pleased to say that I have finished my Coral Reef series. These paintings are my most complicated, and most detailed pieces yet. I pushed myself to develop my skillset by developing precise detail through multiple layers of shading, glazing, and brush strokes.

I tried to keep the wildlife in the paintings as realistic and biologically accurate as I could. Some artistic liberties were taken, but each fish, coral, seaweed, and sea creature is based off of a real aquatic organism. Each of the 50 fish in the painting can be found in nature. I used a collection of reference photos to make the fish accurate, but the whole piece was designed through my imagination. Several weeks were spent on just sketching alone.

This series was designed to work as one continuous landscape with the reef blending seamlessly between the paintings. If the paintings were laid side by side, each piece of coral and seaweed would match up perfectly. There are several pieces of coral and sea fauna that are present on every piece to create cohesion between the units. In addition, the Octopus and the Jellyfish paintings are mirrored images of each other. The Golden Ratio was kept in mind as the mirrored red precious coral creates an arch in the painting that draws the eye across the pieces. The Golden Ratio is known as the divine proportion and is created through the mathematical fibonacci sequence. This sequence is found all throughout nature and is known to be atheistically pleasing. The spiral in the artwork rounds up with the coral and peaks at the head of the middle jellyfish. This is the highest point in the painting and from there it slopes down with the angel fish, runs past the octopus’ legs and finishes again at the same coral species. The spiral in itself creates visual unity.

The Golden Ratio

In the finer details, I hand painted hundreds of dots on the artwork. I wanted to reflect the algae of the rocks and give them texture. Many people have told me that my level of detail sounds stressful, but I find it very relaxing. Even though there are a billion dots, each one has a purpose to shape the overall look of the painting. Each seaweed leaf was formed through its own individual stroke by a tiny brush. The colors of the rocks were achieved through multiple glaze layers of Alizarine Crimson, Phthalo Blue, and Dioxazine Purple. Glazing is a very thin layer of a paint mixed with a medium that creates a translucent layer. Vibrancy is thus created and the painted color can appear to change depending on how the light reflects off of the painting into the viewer’s eye. Each glaze layer needs to dry before the next layer is applied. A glaze layer may take 1-3 days to dry.

Dot. Dot. Dot.

I am ecstatic with how the series turned out. I have bonded with the painting through the hours I spent pouring over the baby fishes and the sea. If I sell the paintings, it will be sad to see it go. Artwork always has a piece of the artist buried within. However, there are always more things to paint and become attached to.

There is now a new tab under my “Shop” labeled “The Ocean Collection“. There will be many more paintings to come of this style and level of detail that will be added in upcoming months. But shhh… I won’t mention them yet. For future information on these paintings follow me on Instagram @gracenestorlouie to keep up to date. Feel free to drop a comment below to let me know what you think!


Octopus, 48” by 24”, Oil on Canvas * Coral Reef, 30” by 30”, Oil on Canvas * Jellyfish, 48” by 24”, Oil on Canvas

Published by Grace Nestor-Louie

My name is Grace Nestor-Louie and I am a fine art oil painter & muralist in Kent, Ohio. I paint in bright colors and focus on animals and nature. I paint on commission and sell online. Come check out my portfolio and stay connected through Instagram @gracenestorlouie.

2 thoughts on “Coral Reef Series: The Making

  1. Grace, Your paintings are truly amazing! We love the bright colors and details.

    Love, Aunt Peg and Uncle Art


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