At Nauset

TM8318 From Nauset 36x44 oil on panel

TM8318 At Nauset 36×44 oil on panel

A wave is a wave is a wave….maybe, until you really look. Then you start to notice the differences in color, the amount of sand in the wave (or seaweed), the oxygenated foam, the ripple patterns, the heave and wash influenced by the sea floor and the part of the beach that is out of sight. Not to mention the effect of the sky on the water’s color, the sparkles caused by wind, spindrift (how much, how high), sand patterns coming up to meet the rush…..and backwash.  A lifetime isn’t enough. Enjoy! Details below.

TM8318 From Nauset - detail of breaking, sand-loaded wave

TM8318 From Nauset – detail of breaking, sand-loaded wave

TM8314 From Nauset - detail of wave

TM8314 From Nauset – detail of wave

Technical painting notes: I began the painting by establishing the horizon line, then, using a soft rubber brayer, I rolled on a thin mix of ultramarine blue, cerulean, and burnt sienna. I let the burnt sienna take over near the bottom of the painting. Lightly dipping a piece of plastic bag in a mix of stand oil and mineral spirits, I “smooshed” the paint around, letting it streak in horizontal bands that would echo the direction of the waves and water. I used an old brush to flick the oil/solvent mix on the panel to create dots of removed paint, then re-rolled through the wet, streaked paint to soften the effects. I used thinned color that was on the plastic bag to stain the sky area.

When this first layer was dry, I started to develop the image, beginning with the sky. I used some of the sky colors (mixed from blues and burnt sienna plus white) to define waves near the horizon, then worked my way down, adjusting and deepening the colors. My goal was to suggest movement while letting the streaky underlayer show through. This helps to keep the painting lively, not static. Again, I let the painting dry before proceeding to develop the breaking wave.

The wave itself was a case of doing as little as possible, so that the initial colors and textures would show through. I used warm white to suggest highlights, then glazed raw sienna, red oxide, and a bit of Prussian blue into the nooks and crannies to add depth and keep the feel of a wave loaded with sand. Brighter white highlights were added later, then spatters of blue and warm white.  When this was all dry, I went back in with glazes to add color interest to the more distant water. I used thinned off-white and white mixed with Liquin to suggest the mist of water blowing off the tops of the wave. I like to keep a balance between precise detail and suggestion, soft and hard edges, warm and cool color. In the case of painting water, I also want to suggest the blur and sparkle of water in motion. The drips and blots in the underpainting, and the spatters on top, add depth and the illusion of movement.


6 thoughts on “At Nauset

  1. I so enjoy each and everyone of your paintings. Also your technical notes. This painting and your closeup of the wave is just incredible. It takes me back to standing in the breaking waves at the beach last summer.

  2. These are extraordinary. Thank-you for sharing your technique. Next time I’m in Boston I will certainly come and visit your gallery – it’s not likely for a while yet. I’m also glad you like Phillip Glass – great stuff. Tony

    • Thank you for your kind comments. I’ve been painting to Harold Budd and Brian Eno lately as well – their rhythms and the space in their music seem to match the spaces I want to paint.

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