This week’s watercolour painting was inspired by a recent trip to the beach. We’d gone to meet some friends at their beach hut and to enjoy a swim in the sea. The water temperature is what can, at best, be described as ‘bracing’ but with a wetsuit, I’m able to enjoy a decent swim.
As I was drying off, I saw four friends set their chairs up on the top bank of the pebbles. As they were facing out to sea, I was able to get a few photographs of them.
There seemed to me something very British about this scene. Four people wrapped up warm just sitting on a beach, on a not especially beautiful day.
While not a beautiful day, the sky was glorious in a different way, with lots of different cloud formations. There was no doubt that this was going to be a sky painting!
I had in mind how I was going to approach this and, after my recent paintings of applying very thin glazes of watercolour to building the painting up, this was the complete opposite. To tackle this sky, I knew I wanted to do it in a single take.
Before I even started painting, I added some ox gall to my bucket of water. I’ve been using it on and off for a short while now. Now I’ve not used it in a particularly scientific fashion – so for anyone wishing to learn a little more about ox gall, my be interested in taking a look at this video:
For those that would like some more information on ox gall, you may find this video helpful:
One of the qualities of ox gall is to extend the drying time – which is what I thought would be needed on such an expanse of sky with so many different elements and patterns to work out.
I didn’t do any drawing out for the sky, so all the underdrawing was a line to define the horizon line, a line to define the beach and then the figures on the chairs, which I did try to spend some time on to get the proportions right.
I started out by wetting the paper down as far as the top of the beach. I let this soak in for a little while, until the sheen had gone from the surface of the paper.
I started at the horizon line with a really pale wash of cobalt violet and cobalt blue to try to get that sense of distance and regression towards the horizon. I also ran a pale strip of cadmium orange an inch or two up from the horizon line before continuing with the cobalt blue but gradually diluting it until it was clear. I then moved to the top of the paper and started to just drop in, with the tip of my brush, a diluted mix of cobalt blue and light red.
Once I’d started this process, I just tried to work as quickly as possible, all the time trying to keep an eye on the paper and how wet it was, and all the while slightly varying the paint mix. I also painted this with the board completely flat so that there wasn’t any risk of paint running down the paper.
Once done, I allowed the sky to dry completely. I then did the sea, from the horizon line to the top of the beach and allowed this to dry completely. Next up was the beach, which I did with a light wash of raw sienna, light red, burnt sienna and burnt umber to create a varied and mottled surface.
Once this was completely dry, I used an old toothbrush to splatter a fine mist of masking fluid onto the beach area. This was then allowed to dry before putting on a much darker wash over the beach.
Again, once this was completely dry, I added the figures, trying to tread a fine line between being loose and accurate! Once dry, I was then able to remove the masking fluid to reveal how the finished painting looked:
I can’t deny being quite pleased with this one, but it’s mainly because of how the sky turned out!
Would love to hear what others think of it!