Painting from the top down

When I finally got the nerve up to begin this painting, I began with the sky. That’s typical when working in most mediums; for the simple reason that you’re not as likely to put your hand in the wet paint as it dries!  A bonus in this case was that the sky seemed the easy part–I would just add a richer blue, a few cumul0-nimbus and some gulls for interest. I shaped the bank of clouds to diminish (and point) in the direction that the children were looking: out to sea.

Beachcombers_startChanging the color of the sea and sky to more saturated blues and greens gave more a feeling of a warm summer day. Likewise with the sand, I would make it more golden to suggest more heat from the sun. Perhaps I would even clean up some of the seaweed from the beach!

Note how I made the shadows of the kids and surf blue. If you want to suggest a warm light, make your shadows a cool color.

The hardest part of this painting came next: the foreground sand with all its wet reflections of sky and children. This was the part I had been dreading. But the time to paint it had come.

The beauty of using watercolor to paint water is that, painting by Nancy Lanewhen used wet-in-wet, it really looks like, well, water! There is nothing else like it. But as the amazing American painter John Singer Sargent once said, “Watercolor painting is making the best of an emergency”. This was exactly how I felt as I poured on the paint over 2/3 of the paper, adding color into color, as fast and  focused as possible, before it dried. The footprints were painted last, as I looked closely at the photo and tried to copy the abstract forms as they receded into space. By pushing the contrast between shadows and light, the scene felt more sunny and vibrant. Amazing how a bunch of abstract colors and shapes can come together like that.