I used to really dread painting water, but I had to get over that and gain some skill at it for a painting a while back. At first it really puzzled me. Water is a weird thing to imagine. We think it's clear and colorless, but every time we see it in the environment we think it's blue or green, or both, or brown if we're really unlucky. So it is clear, blue, green, brown, all of the above? Why do we think waves are white? Go ahead, imagine some water and paint it from memory. I'll wait. You'll probably come up with blue water and literally white white caps on the waves. Right?
I kept painting it like that and it kept looking like a cartoon. I had read other people's very detailed and good tutorials on painting water, but it all went over my head (hah hah pun not intended but I'm keeping it) and still didn't help me understand what I was really looking at and trying to think about.
So I started just painting waves and trying to keep a critical eye on my work as I went. I started noticing some really big things that other people had probably tried to explain to me, but they didn't explain it in a way that I could "get" it. All of the sudden - DUH - it hit me like an ACME anvil.
Somebody said my take in this video is more psychological and they liked that - it made more sense to some people than other explanations. Maybe that's true, I don't know, but watch the video if you're struggling with painting this very (most?) important element.