The California coastline varies from top to bottom. Some areas have wide, flat sandy beaches, and others are at the base of rugged cliffs, sometimes accessible, sometimes not. State law says the beaches are for everyone, and must be accessible. People in Malibu and some areas south of San Francisco have rich people who won’t grant access, and lawsuits have been fought long and hard. There is even an app for your phone that tells you where you can access beaches in Malibu, in spite of the fake “No Beach Access” signs put out by land owners on the coast. Funny, but not funny.
Hendry’s Beach (often called “Henry’s Beach”) is a long-time favorite and a popular one in Santa Barbara. At low tide, you can walk a long distance, but if you are not careful about the tides, you could get caught! The ocean is sometimes out enough that a lagoon is formed, and then disappears when the tide comes in.
The miracle of green always happens in the last of the year and the first of the next when the rains come and new growth begins to emerge in the hills of California. After months of dry weather and fading landscapes. color erupts almost overnight. Soon, wildflowers will begin to tinge the hills from green to orange and purple and yellow. Here, a view from the hills toward the Pacific, with the Channel Islands in view, lost in the coastal fog.
This was a rather fun painting to do just because it forced me to really rethink using white.
The ocean was the problem. I thought I had put it in so it would be fairly light, particularly toward the distant shore. Instead, when it dried, it was darker than I wanted. The trees on the hill in the midground were essentially the same value as the water! This was quite an eye-opener. In the end, I put plain white (zinc) onto the paper, and kept blending it in until I got it where it was acceptable.
From there, it was back to the background. It was also too bright. I toned that down, and greyed it up a bit. The background shore was too bright. More work. Then, back to the midground, foreground, buildings and boats. I painted – with oodles of white! – the buildings, making them abstract shapes and then adding slightly darker shades to make the buildings seem 3-D. More trees. Finally, reflections, boats, and their reflections.
While I don’t consider this to be one of my better paintings, it is certainly one filled with lessons, in particular the usage of white (lots!), perhaps in the future check the colors on a separate piece of paper to see how light or dark they will dry, and finally deliberately trying to create abstract color blobs for buildings and trees that are discernible as such, but still indistinct in the distance.
I am ordering more white today!
We spent a few days up on the Monterey Peninsula last week. I took lots of pictures, some with the camera, some with the phone. Digital is wonderful for catching so much – but it also keeps you from seeing things at times if you use the scatter gun approach that digital photography allows. I tried to frame my photos more thoughtfully than I sometimes do, taking time to consider composition and so on. All of this was with reference to the idea I would like to use material from my trip as potential painting subjects.
Above is one such example. Once more, my sense of depth is not the best. I tried to employ some of the techniques I know – atmospheric depth, less detail in the distance – but I really didn’t do a great job. In some ways, the painting sort of created itself. The path in the photo was curvier – way curvier – but it decided to become straighter as I painted. I just noticed that!
Anyway, I am planning to continue to paint every day. I do have some great subject matter. I plan to alternate watercolor and gouache, and become a bit more academic – find things I want to work on, and then study it, whether from a book or an online video.
I can say I have improved over time, but I am not where I would like to be. The question always at the back of my mind is, what do I do when I get where I want to be?
The Channel Islands off the coast of California are amazing to visit. Only recently (don’t remember when) they became a national park, to protect both the islands and their flora and fauna, as well as to protect the waters surrounding them. Anacapa is a very distinctive island. It has an arch on one end, and zig-zags, snakelike, as it emerges from the water. I have visited this island, both on the land, and in a boat sailing around. It’s a truly lovely place, one worth visiting, painting, exploring, and photographing.
Here, I finished up using the available paints on my muddy palette. The final painting with that mess! As with yesterday’s painting, I have added white to the palette for colors, but for the most part, these are colors salvaged from the mess on the palette.
Truth be told, I really did not expect this painting to turn out at all. My colors were just such a mess. I simplified everything as much as I could. I managed to get some sense of depth, which also surprised me!
I like the beach, in case you haven’t noticed. Grass, sand, cliffs, water, wind.
I broke down and did a value study for this scene.
Of course, I did it on an accessible page in my sketchbook, but since I did the study before the painting, I knew where I wanted lights and darks. As I worked, I pulled dark areas together to contrast with lighter / brighter areas. I mixed my colors using zinc white, but this time used titanium white straight out of the tube to highlight the ocean waves.
I’ve been wondering why people say “zinc for mixing, titanium for highlights.” Zinc is a transparent white, so it blends with gouache and watercolors without distorting the values. Titanium is a more opaque white, and as a result good for highlights, but not recommended for color mixing.
I guess if I was a true plein aire painter, I would be outside at the beach recording “Beach Fun” for #WorldWatercolorMonth2019. Alas, it is not to be.
Sort of “meh” about this one. It was a lot harder to do than I thought it would be – what is more simple than a pail and shovel? Well, it was! It’s like there are 3 different styles here – none of which match or integrate well. I like the shadows on the sand the best.
This one, I will say, makes me feel pretty good. I like the surf board and the highlights on the leash. As well, the foggy sky with the sun breaking through is a far cry from my usual blue skies. Overall, the atmosphere is good for beach fun, I think.
I really cannot say how much I am enjoying painting in gouache! Like watercolor, there are times it makes me crazy, but as I do more and more painting, it is beginning to make sense. Some of the colors I have are not what I really like, and it is easy to get muddy, just as in watercolor. Letting things happen is also part of gouache, as in watercolor, but that is the beauty of any art form – it can go places you never expect and create some lovely, happy accidents.