Beachcombers: The start of a watercolor commission

I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me almost a year to get the nerve up to tackle this painting. My dear friend Leah had made it clear she was in no rush for it, that it could wait as long as needed until I had time. She had an old photograph of her children from years ago, strolling the beach on a cool overcast day. She liked the photo but wanted something…  more.

The provided photo.

The provided photo.

My initial suggestions were to change the awkward position of their hands so that they were holding hands. I could add interesting clouds, maybe seagulls. I took the photo to my studio. There it sat, taunting me all year.

Photos are a blessing and a curse. They capture seemingly every detail, yet often fail when it comes to mood or temperature. Details can distract from the focal point. Lack of detail in shadows flatten out the scene. The trick is understanding the limits of the camera, and using your paintbrush to fix them. Not easy!

I decided I would try to enhance those things we feel on a beach: the flying surf. The blowing hair and billowing clouds. The warmth of sun on sand, the refreshing cool wetness of receding surf. The immense depth of the space. Capturing even some of these things could infuse more life into this scene.