Painting underwater off the Caribbean island of Curaçao

As if going to a tropical island in February to paint isn’t enticing enough, Plein Air Curaçao is offering artists the chance to paint underwater, in scuba gear or snorkeling equipment. 

Alexander Belozor teaches underwater painting at Plein Air Curaçao. This is one of his creations.

If that sounds novel, well, it is. But not unprecedented. A man named Zarh H. Pritchard dove 65 feet in Tahiti in 1904 and painted a piece with oil paints that were specially ground to be extra thick, and with “oil crayons.” There are several practitioners of underwater painting in the world today. At Plein Air Curaçao, scheduled for February 26 through March 7, Alexander Belozor will show interested painters how to dive and paint, using non-toxic paints and canvases weighted down with rocks or attached to Belozor’s invention, the “seasel.”

Belozor with two paintings executed underwater

Divers painting underwater in Curaçao

“It is an exceptional opportunity to learn to paint underwater in the crystal-clear Caribbean Sea,” says Loes Barnard, one of the organizers of the event. “The paintings created during the underwater sessions will be exhibited and sold, together with the plein air paintings of the festival.”

The underwater painters at Plein Air Curaçao with their work

Painting underwater obviously has its challenges. Artists generally have less than an hour to complete a piece. Divers must be careful not to stir up the sand and sediment on the ocean floor, which will obscure the scene. Artists have to be particularly mindful of the potential impact of their presence and activity. “The paint is used straight from the tubes and choice of colors is limited,” adds Barnard. “Color perception is different underwater  — bright red may become a dull brown or black. Palette knives and fingers are used instead of brushes. The canvas must be covered with a waterproof adhesive coating. The canvas is washed well with fresh water after completion.” A video of artists painting underwater is viewable here.

Another underwater painting from Belozor

Painters at the event will work at depths of anywhere from two to 20 feet. Of course, most artists will opt for terrestrial setups. That is the bulk of the work at Plein Air Curaçao.


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