Wave Watchers

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I started with an acrylic under painting in 2 values. I scraped ochre, and violet thinly on with a palette knife, leaving the white canvas to make a third value. Then I mixed some big puddles of paint, and painted fast, waiting for the figures way down on the beach to get into position. I captured them with a few strokes each, cleaning up my mess using the negative space around them.

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27 min sunset

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I quickly spread a warm, orange-rose underpainting where I saw all the warms. I used acrylic and a palette knife, and was playing with the shape and design of the composition. I wished, as I was painting the sunset, I would have covered the whole canvas, or perhaps put a different color under the non-warm section because I love the way thick paint skips over the heavy textured canvas, and the white skips left something to be desired.

Practice sunset

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Note to any artist who is wishing to paint more in plein air. Painting outside is awkward, and hard, and invaluable to what it adds to your ability to see and paint inside and out. My advice: practice. Practice setting up your easel, or paint box, practice inside when no one is watching and work out the kinks of your equipment.

I will paint you a scenario from last spring…. I set up to paint the sunset on the beach, in oil, with a new travel easel. I spend the summer painting sunrise and sunsets plein air, in the DESERT, in PASTELS. Imagine my arrogance at thinking I could handle this new medium, subject, and hardware with ease. Well, as beach sunsets at popular vacation destinations tend to do…a crowd gathered, and my easel offered more of an attraction. So I was setting up a new easel, in the sand, and the wind, with a crowd curiously looking on. I had NEVER set up this easel, it was almost like the old one. ALMOST, did I bring the instructions? Nope. Was I wishing I would have practiced at home? Hmmm, maybe this screw goes this way? Or perhaps I have to turn this bracket around? I was dropping bolts in the sand and cursing myself. I finally sat down in the sand embarrassed. I forced my way through the painting, but it was awkward. I wasn’t familiar with the colors I would need. Finally I rode my bike to a coffee shop the next day to use wifi, and found a video of how to set up the easel. NOTE: parts have been reversed for shipping the first time you set up this easel you will have to completely disassemble and reassemble. I learned my lesson.

I decided to take a bit of my own advice today. Paint a sunset (from a photo), no wind, no crowd, no pressure. I set my timer and set to work, I learned there are colors I wished I would have had and wished I would have pre toned the canvas. Good lessons for the next beach painting session.

Sand dunes sketch box

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Painting plein air in the wind is tricky. I finally found a system that worked well….instead of setting up an easel which is apt to flip in a gust of wind, I sat with a little sketch box in my lap and worked on a 5″x7″ pieced of sanded paper securely taped down.

The sky allowed for an interesting study in color this afternoon. Above the dunes it was a bright, rich, almost-cobalt blue; above the water, the same sky looked almost grey compared to the deep blue-green ocean.