Monday, March 15, 2010

Shell Studies

While at the Outer Banks on vacation, I brought many, many art supplies.  I brought oil paints and 10 canvases and an easel a student was generous enough to loan me.  I brought 2 boxes of pastels along with pastel paper.  I brought pencils and a gorgeous sketchbook I bought in Venice and am intimated to use because it's so beautiful.  And watercolors and brushes and paper.  It was a lot of stuff!  I made sure to use each thing while there.

One of the first days were were there, the weather was very nice, if somewhat blustery.  I decided that would be a good day to head to the beach to paint, unfamiliar easel and all.  I learned that it is cold painting outdoors at the beach in March, even with my loving husband as a windbreak and a tube-opener!  I painted two small canvases of the ocean and beach.  I am NOT yet skilled at painting the waves!  I spent a good deal of time staring at them trying to figure out how they work and how to paint them, but I will be the first to admit that I was not successful in either. The first painting I did with my palette knife.  It was fun to slop the paint around and to try to capture the extravagant vitality of the crashing waves, but when I was done, I knew it was not a keeper.  For one thing, there was too much paint on it to dry before leaving for home.  For another, it simply wasn't good enough.  Yuck!  The second one was better but not significantly.  I brought it home with me, but will not embarass myself by showing it here!  I have so much to learn about painting landscapes.  They are not my forte, darn it!  I kept thinking as I tried to paint the waves - I KNOW how to paint the body.  It makes sense to me.  It has defineable form and light and shadow and color and value.  These darn waves are so spectacular, but I can't figure out how to paint them at all!  I have pictures of them.  I guess I'll have to work from a few photos to try to decipher them then try plein aire again.

The next thing I did was to combine watercolor and pencil to draw some shells.  We were blessed to find many, many whelk shells so I wanted to draw them.  I love spirals, and they have great spirals!  Sadly the pencil made the watercolor turn out too grey and dull so that wasn't such a great idea, but I enjoyed the process.  I also find shells difficult to draw.

After that, I didn't want to stop so I used a burnt sienna-colored pen to draw the outlines of shells then filled them in with watercolor.  I feel like they were more successful.  I was able to paint the details and play with the patterns in ways that satisfied me more.  While walking on the beach, I kept finding shell fragments that I found absolutely beautiful.  Their patterns were compelling to me.  I decided to bring them back to the house (and ultimately cart them home) so I could be inspired by nature.

After painting the watercolor shells, I got out my pastels and used the patterns and colors as the stepping off for color studies.  Here's the most obvious one:

I really liked the 3-D effect of the ups and downs on the shell.

This is from those purple and white shells that I find everywhere and think are so beautiful.  I love the colors.  The drawing reminds me of a sunrise as well as the shell.

This one is based on the movement in the shell. It was very 3 dimensional and had wonderful colors in it.

This came from my favorite shell.  The shell was just a sliver of an ivory-colored shell with very fine blue lines pitched at just the curved angle I have above.  It was so delicate and beautiful.

I tried a different technique for this one - cross-hatching.  It certainly gives it a different feel.

This last one is based on a scallop shell I found and is more like the color studies I worked on a few years ago.  I really like the juxtaposition of colors and the fieriness of it.

Thanks for taking a look!

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