Saturday, February 21, 2015

Rocks and Ocean

For my February classes at my studio, I decided it was time to try some subject matter that I don't paint as often. In this case....seascapes with rocks and waves! During a recent visit to the Oregon coast last month, I was able to gather some reference photos.

Rocks and Ocean Study 1, pastel, 8x10
Wednesday's demo

Any artist is at a disadvantage when painting a subject matter that he or she doesn't often see. Since, for the past 23 years, I've lived at least 5 hours from the coast, without many visits there, and when I have, it's always been the east coast. I did grow up a little closer to the east coast (about an hour from the Jersey shore), but I wasn't painting as often at that time. When I shot my reference photos last month, that was the very first time I saw the Oregon coast.

Rocks and Ocean Study 2, oil, 8x10
Thursday's demo

Artists who paint the scenery they "live with"--and also paint it often on location--will almost always paint that subject matter better than artists who rarely see it in person. With that in mind, I looked through some excellent examples of artists (too many to mention) who live near and often paint this subject matter, and took note of some of the color palettes used, since I knew my photos wouldn't be entirely truthful.  

Rocks and Ocean Study 3, oil, 8x10
Friday's demo

I otherwise approached things the same way I do any painting...looking for the big abstract shapes and striving for a well designed composition, and then with my best "guesses" based on the information I had, carefully capturing the correct values and color temperatures.

Initial block in for Friday's demo.
(Photo unfortunately has some glare on the right.)

Since much of these studies had to do with the contrast between the warm of the sand and the cool blue sky reflections, I set up most of the warm part of this contrast in the block-in. (One of the oil versions is shown above, but I did it similarly in my pastel underpainting.)

An early stage of Thursday's demo, shortly after the block-in.

As with painting snow, I find I often need to exaggerate the intensity of the warm/cool contrast, especially pushing the warm highlights catching direct sunlight. In all three demos, I found that I had to go back in and add more yellow to those areas that appeared to be the whitest whites of the sea foam, otherwise they didn't convey the sense of light I was trying to capture.

These were a lot of fun to paint! Maybe I'll get even more adventurous and paint a larger version.

Upcoming Workshops:

The next several workshops I have coming up are already full, but last I checked, I do have one spot remaining in my 2-day oil/pastel workshop in Dahlonega, GA. Specifics below:

OIL/PASTEL Workshop - Dahlonega, GA - 2-day 
March 19 & 20, 2015 (Thurs/Fri)
The Art Loft
Dahlonega, GA 
To register, visit


  1. I am struggling with the same observations, having recently gone to Hawaii - a short break from our frigid, bleak Minnesota winter! Thanks for your helpful insight.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Judy! The Minnesota landscape seems to come more easily to me, even though I've never lived there. But I did grow up in New Jersey, and the landscape there is somewhat similar. Ocean and rocks are a whole different ballgame, though! Stay warm up there!