August 27th, 2015
I've just got home from painting on the beach at Widemouth Bay, North Cornwall this afternoon. But what are the benefits of painting outside at the coast, and what are the drawbacks? Let's look at the drawbacks first (though really there can be no drawbacks to creative output when looked at from a wider perspective).
It's windy. Actually very windy on this Atlantic shore. As I'm painting in watercolour for this outdoor painting I'm using paper to paint on, so it has to be well-secured to the drawing board with clips and blu-tack. So with hat jammed onto head I squint into the bright light, trying to avoid looking at the piercingly-bright sun reflections off the sea. Putting it mildly this can't be good for the eyes, so try to choose a scene where you're not looking directly towards the light. Remember that as the sun gets lower in the sky this effect gets worse and the sun starts to intrude under the brim of your hat.
What else is difficult when painting on the shore? Try to park as close as you can to where you are going to paint. All the artist's gear I take with me is heavy. Painting the sea is difficult as it won't keep still like it does in my photos. The trick is to fix a wave in your mind, then as you paint it look for other waves doing the same kind of thing. Thank goodness the cliffs keep still! If they were dancing too it would be twice as hard. But do remember that the light on the cliffs changes fast, so outline in pencil where the shadows are when you start. They will be much longer by the time you've finished.
Now, what of the advantages? Painting outside on the beach gives an immediacy and vibrancy to your work because you have to work quickly - no time to get bogged down in fiddly bits, just get the important things into the painting. Actually at the end there's time to tweak and tidy up, as well as to add a few small details with a fine brush. But don't go too far and lose that freshness of approach.
What else? People passing by are interested in what you are doing and stop to watch. Be prepared to chat to them and tell them about your work, you never know where that might lead...