Wednesday, November 2, 2016

How "A Cuddle of Sand Dollars" was created.

This painting of a pile of sand dollars on Popham Beach here in Maine was painted in my studio in the dead of winter last year! I thought you might enjoy seeing the reference photo and then the steps that I worked through to complete the painting.

Here is the reference photo:

I knew that this painting had to be large. Otherwise, it would be a "Maine cliche". And so I stretched a piece of paper that was 45 x 50".

I wanted to make a textured surface for the area that was sand. I diluted white acrylic gesso in a dish, and put on my latex gloves. I applied the gesso with a tapping motion, making a surface of tiny bumps. I gradually smoothed out the gesso and stopped short of the smooth water.

Then I painted everything except the sand dollars:

Next, the sand dollars. This was fun! 

However, I did not like the way the planes of water and sky were separate. It was difficult to keep adding pigment because of the gessoed surface. Because it was so big, I was using a large brush and my brush strokes would lift the paint underneath.

I decided that drastic measures were necessary. It was make or break! I mixed up a big bowl of white gesso and tinted it with a little blue, adding enough water to make it easily spreadable.

With the big brush, I quickly laid down a wash of the gesso over the entire painting, except for the sand dollars. Then I added some thicker swirling strokes around the sand dollars.

"A Cuddle of Sand Dollars"
44 x 48"

These thicker strokes created the look of water swirling around on the sand. I was so pleased that my risky move paid off.

This painting was given First Prize in the New England Watercolor Society's Biennial North American Exhibition in Gloucester, MA this past month. Juror Mary Whyte wrote"

        " A stunning painting. Bold in its concept, composition and execution".

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