Everything’s Beachy

We are going through a process of changing some of the pictures we have hanging around our home. It’s pleasing to have some kind of a link between those in one area – maybe by colour, theme, or medium. And so I find myself with a little piece of wall space just asking for a sea/blue themed picture. Queue a trawl through our photo albums to find inspiration. I was attracted by a picture of this groyne in Hunstanton, a beach we have visited many times over the decades, and which holds good memories of clear, cold spring days.

Hunstanton groyne acrylic

I referred my source photo, making sure that I had a satisfyingly cropped composition with horizontal thirds. Helpful memories reminded me of how the sea and sand look here, as the tide makes its long retreat. Acrylics seemed the most fitting choice, especially as I wanted a bigger painting (A4+) and often struggle to achieve this size successfully in watercolour. I enjoyed building up the layers of paint with a flat brush, starting with the sky, moving on to sand. I do love a flat brush. Last to be added were the wooden posts and a smattering of pebbles (which were certainly more taxing than I’d expected).

Looking at this painting now, I’m not sure whether it’s finished. I guess time will tell.

Not Entirely Plain Sailing

Yesterday we had an expedition to explore Suffolk, our neighbouring county and ‘Constable country’ as it’s known. We began at Dedham where we hired a little boat to row up to Flatford Mill (made famous in Constable’s painting The Haywain). The river was idyllic, the rowing less so. However, we made it there and back in the alloted time, amidst the bucolic scenery.

Dedham is also home of the Sir Alfred Munnings Art Museum, so we popped in for a visit; not too expensive and worth a look if you’re in the area.

Felixstowe beach watercolourLater we drove on up to Felixstowe, best known for being a busy container shipping port, and we did sit and watch the fascinating comings and goings on the docks for a while. However, it also turns out that Felixstowe is a really pleasant seaside town, with a quickly shelving beach suitable for swimming (if you’re that way inclined). The chaps donned their shorts and plunged in, leaving me time for a very quick sketch.

This was my first time painting surf and proper waves, as the beaches we normally frequent are very shallow and the water doesn’t get too excited. The surf’s edge, where the wet sand meets water and the waves bubble over definitely presented challenges, although it was enjoyable to attempt. The sea was a very Northern blue/green/grey, rather tricky to pin down, despite yesterday’s beautiful blue skies. I tried to put in the small yacht I spied on the horizon – I think next time I won’t bother as this little, rather unsuccessful detail caused no end of fuss. Perhaps if I’d taken some masking fluid with me it might have helped here.

All in all, I enjoyed making this picture – I got completely lost in the moment, so much so that I had a very dead leg when the boys came out of the water and I finally stood up!

Swimming, Sketching

Sheringham beach watercolourA little further round the Norfolk coast from us, there are some wonderful beaches. Whatever your preference – stony, sandy, rocky – there is something which will suit. The busy little town of Sheringham has a lovely promenade, with bright beach huts lining it. The beach itself shelves away very quickly, so it’s great for swimming, and in the summer it thrives.

This sketch is from last year. The day I painted it, everything seemed to go ‘swimmingly’. I found a nice composition straight away, there was somewhere decent to sit, the colours went on well, the paint dried at just the right speed (how rare is that?) and I was pretty much finished by the time my husband and son had finished their lovely swim and had a snack. All good. Happy days!

Snowy Day at the Beach

I woke up two days ago thinking about making this picture. Some time back I’d taken a photograph at Hunstanton beach when it snowed; the dusting had completely transformed the late winter afternoon atmosphere of the promenade, muting the colours and bringing a new dimension to the place. It seemed that it would be a good scene to try out in pastel as its composition was pretty good, and I thought I could play heavily on the blues and greys.

Hunstanton Snow pastelThis is my first landscape in pastel. It was quite a challenge, and I’ve been working sporadically on this picture over two days. There are lots of elements of perspective here, always a worry. Then there is the strange, semi-geodesic, 1980s-style building – nightmare. It was built of triangles set at different angles…shudder. Anyone with advice to offer on how to tackle this, please do let me know.

I enjoyed trying out approaches for the sky and sea, but the wet, shiny sand and dull, drier sand were tough. I’d like a cool dark brown/black pastel for my collection, but my local art shop is a bit short on stock at the moment.

As usual, I don’t think I made my picture large enough (9 x 24 ins), so putting the lamp-posts in was a delicate operation. The photograph has lost the subtlety of the colours, especially the blues, which is a shame, but the general idea’s there.

Certainly, this was an interesting project. And that’s what it’s all about…