Sunday, February 10, 2013

Evolution of a seacape in oil - VI

My latest studio painting brings together all the experiences I've enjoyed, so far, since last August in my pursuit of the perfect seascape. I've blogged the challenge which began with the Genesis of a seascape in oils and later transitioned into the Evolution of a seascape in oil series.

The journey to date has involved taking thousands of photographs and shooting some video footage of the local coastline at various times of day and in differing weather conditions. I've also completed dozens of plein air studies of waves and rocky shores and studied seascapes by other artists, both historical and contemporary.

My primary focus has been to not just recreate a photograph of the sea, but to capture the energy of the local coastline in paint through the use of a strong abstract foundation.

Here are the three stages in my newest work...

Seascape oil painting step 1 by Andy Dolphin

Working from a photographic reference, I used Liquol (an alkyd medium by Art Spectrum) and solvent to reduce the paint and laid in my initial tonal washes. There's some early thought here about warm and cool areas.

Seascape oil painting step 2 by Andy Dolphin

Starting with the sky, the most distant part of the scene, I began adding body paint. In the foreground, I concentrated on the major shadow masses. Highlights will be added later.

Even at this early stage, you might see that I'm employing direction lines. The most obvious lead-in is the dark mass of rock pointing straight to the crashing wave. Highlights will break this mass up a little. I've also incorporated a "Z" shape in the white foam. This path starts at bottom-centre, moves up to the left and then turns right, past the focal point, before heading toward the distant headland where it returns the eye back to the centre of interest.

Seascape oil painting by Andy Dolphin
 (South coastal. 70x37cm oil on board. © Andy Dolphin)

Here's how the painting finished up with highlights and shadow detail added. It captures that moment on a cloudy day when the sun manages to break through and light things up for a moment. There's a storm brewing in the distance sending a barrage of waves to batter a heavy and unmoving rocky coast. This is when the sea is, to me, at its very best.

To increase the energy of the scene, I've dropped the viewpoint somewhat below the level where I actually stood to take the reference photo. I couldn't possibly have stood this far down the rocks and remained dry - or safe - but I wanted to capture the feeling of being there. Lowering the viewpoint in this way requires some reorganising of the elements in order to correct the perspective - but the results are worth the time and effort.

The journey continues.

Seascape oil painting series:
Genesis of a seascape in oil - I
Genesis of a seascape in oil - II
Genesis of a seascape in oil - III
Evolution of a seascape in oil - IV
Evolution of a seascape in oil - V 
Evolution of a seascape in oil - VI

Friday, February 1, 2013

Afternoon breaker - plein air seascape in oil

Green Islands, Albany, WA. Photo by Andy Dolphin.
Green Islands, Albany. Photo by Andy Dolphin.

With the sun still shining, I threw my French easel, back pack, camera and bottle of cordial in the car and headed back to the Albany coast.

Plein air oil painting kit. Andy Dolphin.

My back pack folds out to a stool (I stand when I paint though) and contains almost everything I need for plein air painting. It's a semi-organised mess but it carries rags, plastic bags, primed painting boards, colour charts, thinner, sketch book, pencils, hand wipes and sometimes a beanie to keep my head warm as evening falls. It has two side pockets that hold insect repellent, sunscreen and my bottle of drinking water - or cordial. It's handy having the drinking water in its own pocket so I don't reach into the back pack and end up grabbing and drinking thinner by mistake.

My SLR camera is too big and precious to go in the back pack so has its own shoulder bag. My paints and brushes are in the French easel.

Here's the result for this trip. First, the "proof I was there" location shot...

Plein air seascape painting in oils on location. By Andy Dolphin.

And the painting...

Plein air seascape painting in oils. By Andy Dolphin.
 (Afternoon breaker. Plein air sketch. 30x20cm oil on board. © Andy Dolphin)
The photo at the top of the blog shows how things were looking as I was packing up. Spectacular, as always.

Woogie - Plein air landscape in oil

Woogie = "wood-jee"

The sunshine has returned after a bit of a break, and I tried something a little different on Wednesday afternoon.

I've driven past this abandoned cottage near Woogenellup (Wood-je-nell-up) for years. Several times I've stopped and taken photos but it's never looked paintable until this time.

It was late so I knew I didn't have much time for fluffing about. I did, however, take a couple of minutes to do some thumbnails. A bit of time spent on these can save a lot of time trying to adjust a painting that's going wrong.

Plein air thumbnail by Andy Dolphin

I considered two options and chose the first, with the cottage sitting high and to the left of the scene. You'll notice a dead tree in front of the cottage. It does exist but I opted, in the end, to leave it out of the painting.

I chose to go with a  limited palette and decided to experiment a little. With dry grass, old timber fence posts and a rusty-roofed cottage built from stone, the scene was quite "earthy" so I went with very subdued colour selection.

I used French ultramarine, Australian red gold and burnt sienna. This effectively gave be a reddish-blue and two oranges. I knew the blue and burnt sienna would make wonderful dark tones and I knew the red gold with white would give an almost toffee-like golden yellow, suitable for the sunlit dry grass. I've also had some pleasant results in the past mixing greens from ultramarine and red gold. But I'd never used these three as the only colours for a whole painting.

Here's the location shot

Plein air landscape oil painting by Andy Dolphin

And here's the finished product.

Plein air landscape oil painting by Andy Dolphin
 (Woogie Cottage. Plein air sketch. 30x20cm oil on board. © Andy Dolphin)
The colour choice has made itself known in the final result. Overall, things are just a bit too yellow, giving the scene a slightly jaundiced look that may not show up on screen. But there's some nice stuff happening here and I think I'll work on this one after it's dried and see what I can pull out of it. I may even pop the dead tree in.