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Painting in bright sun with changing conditions at Cape Ann, MA. How to define the focus, find a scene, and capture it quickly.


The ocean, beach and surf is constantly changing. Meet the challenge of painting the motion of the waves and capturing accurate colors on location. By focusing on the main intent and planning for an hour of painting an artist can harvest valuable information that no photo can provide. Give it a try!

Ocean artists to look at: Frederick Waugh, Edgar Payne, Charles Movalli, Emile Gruppe, Edward Seago

To maintain focus it's important to clarify intent before painting at the ocean. Examples of intent can be: foam or surf, blues (sky/water), rocks and glisten, motion or sand. By focusing on only one aspect for an hour (instead of trying for all elements) a deeper understanding of the focus item will be gained.

This lesson can also be copied as a paint-along demo to learn from. I had a very emotional time at the ocean at Cape Ann. I found that by painting the motion of the waves for hours at a time I gained a deeper understanding of the nuances of the surf, the motion, and the shore/rock/wave interaction. I've been seeking this information for a long time and it was deeply satisfying to meditate on the ocean for a week. I really encourage you to TRY painting the ocean plein air. It's so soothing.

Try not to have big expectations of fantastic studies or art in the beginning. This will come over time or maybe only in the studio. Focus instead on a quick capture and maybe set a timer to not exhaust yourself. Even color dots or bars of color can be useful combined with photos in the studio later.

Safety note: the tide can change quickly. A few artists I've know have had gear swept away or fallen on the black rocks. The ocean needs to be respected!. Try to notify a friend where you are painting and always keep an eye out for the big wave that might come (it does!).



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