These are the things that excite me : well chosen words, vibrant colours that sing of summer , the compelling rhythm of nature's patterns, blank pages pregnant with possibilities. These are the things that I love: my family, creating, painting, writing, laughing, being.
I had a very wobbly moment today. I wanted to check one of my travel sketch books and I just couldn’t find it! I spent last weekend moving my art supplies into our home office and my husband out ( he’s retired now – why does he need an office?). It’s a tiny space, 2×2 metre , so not much room to lose anything you would think. Wrong! I’ve got a complex system of wheeled storage that I move around depending on what I’m doing and where I need the space. There’s a lot of storage for such a tiny space. And then there’s all the other nooks and crannies around the house where I’ve squeezed in a bit of art ephemera that just won’t fit in that little 2m cube. ( I used to have a bigger room but the prodigal son returned and there went my art studio).
So I emptied drawers, moved piles of books, checked under the bed and in the wardrobe. I found some odd socks, 2 dollars, a missing earring and finally three sketch books – but there’s a lot more than that. I could feel my skin getting clammy and a mild sense of panic rising at the thought I might have lost them. Of course I eventually found them – there’s always that one drawer you forget about even when it’s right in plain sight. The heart rate returned to normal and I sat down for a satisfying hour of memories.
Why did I panic at the thought of losing them? Because these travel art journals bring back a lot of sense memories that I just don’t get from my photos.
I can smell the lavander…
I can taste the salt in the breeze….
I can feel the heat bouncing off the rocks…
I can hear the sound of my laughing children in the room behind me as I sketch at the open window…
I can feel a frisson of fear as my husband stands too near the edge….
I can feel the joy of finally getting to those US desert national parks after a decade of wearing my husband down – he loved it! ( not the wearing down part – the desert colours part)
Travel is a big part of our lives – and travel sketch books have become an integral part of that experience for me.
This is my very first post! I thought I would start with a demo painting of a local seascape to share my painting process with you. Hope you find it interesting…
Sometimes I’ll know just what I want to paint – other times I’ll look through old photos or my ideas board until something says “paint me”! Today I chose a photo of a local beach at low tide – I like the sense of distance and the diagonals in this photo. I know it will need something else to bring it alive but I have an idea for that.
Choosing the paper.
So I’ve decided which reference photo I’m going to use and now I need to choose the colour of my sanded paper. I use either Canson or Mi- Tientes sanded pastel paper because the tooth holds layers of pastel and I don’t need to fix the finished paper. ( more about fixative later!)
Anyway how to choose one colour from all the possibilities?
I take the photo and look for papers that either provide a strong contrast with the main colour or temperature of the subject or one that matches the dominant colour and temperature or maybe one that matches the temperature but is a darker or lighter tone than the dominant tone of the subject.
Here I’ve narrowed it down to 3 colours so I lay the photo over the intersection of the papers and see which one I think feels right.
I choose the mid tone colour as I think it will give a good under colour showing through the pale foreground sand , it takes care of the middle ground and won’t dominate the sky which I want to stay light and bright.
Now for the pastels!
This is when I get out my boxes of pastels and the fun starts. I’m going for my Great American ArtWorks seascape set, a fantastic set of Sennelier half sticks and my “orphans” box and a couple of pastel pencils to sketch it up.
I could transfer the image by any number of methods but I’m not too fussy about getting it exactly right and just sketch in the main forms of the mountains, hills, horizon, sea and sand The one thing I am careful about is getting the horizon dead level! I use a dark pencil for the background and then a light one for the sand and sea as I don’t want the dark to show through later layers.
Now I start blocking in the main shapes loosely. Mostly I use the local colour ( the actual colour I see in the photo) but in the middle ground hill I pop in some bright reds and golds. I want these to show through a little under the final greens to give some added warmth to the painting. I make sure to put in some light pinks and yellows at the base of the sky for some sparkle. The wet sand gets a swathe of dark blue as it will be useful later in establishing the dips and shadows in the sand. Once I’ve finished blocking in smooth the sky and hills with the side of my finger to blend the colours.
The sky and hills
Next I work in some blues in the background hills and some greens in the middle hill. I add the suggestion of trees and some more golds into the dry paddocks. Also a little work on the junction between the wet and dry sand.
The sea and sand
I add more layers of pale pinks, yellows and blues to the sky and some of the same colours in the sea. I start adding layers of creams, siennas, ochres and some purples to the wet sand and darken the edges of the sand bar . Now I add a sprinkle of washed up sea grasses to the edge of the wet sand.
Next it’s a bit of a suggestion of the path and then some seaweed on the dry sand.
Some shadows on the path
Now some seaweed
I work up the grasses around the path using darks and then some lighter colours for the sunlit side. I use some hard conte sticks for the grasses. Notice I’ve darkened the water’s edge some more and added a little pink to the water as well. I want to give a sense of how shallow it is here. Some shadows from the grasses help to show the slope of the path.
I want to add a little life and movement so I pop in a few wading birds on the wet sand. They also help carry the eye from the strong sand diagonals back towards the water and hills. You can see I’ve also strewn a few white shells and some darker marks around for a bit of added interest and texture to the sand.
A final distant sail boat , my signature and the painting is finished. On the whole I’m quite pleased. The finished painting retains the strong compositional lines that first drew me to the subject but I’ve warmed it up, strengthened the contrasts and added some movement.