Elizabeth at the Beach

Elizabeth at the Beach by Dawna Morton

Elizabeth at the Beach by Dawna Morton

Water soluble oils on gessoed paper, approximately 15 x 22″, 2006. Intellectual property of Dawna Morton. All rights reserved. Do not copy.

The idea for Elizabeth at the Beach. came to me back in 2005 when Elizabeth came back home to Oregon for a visit from out of state. She was so sad that her schedule while visiting did not allow enough time to have a day at the beach that I decided to do a painting of a little piece of “home” for her.  I  found a picture  for reference in my photo album from a day we had spent at Cannon Beach as teenagers. While the tide was low  we waded out to Haystack Rock and climbed up on part of it. On the way out there I  turned back towards shore  to snap a picture of Elizabeth who was using the rocks as stepping stones some distance behind me.

Too simplify the composition of the painting I reduced the number of beach houses on shore, people, and rocks in the water in the scene. Since the painting is quite a bit larger than the photo, I used a ruler and some math to mark key elements on the paper in the right places and in the correct scale and relation to each other. I used this method more sparingly in this painting than on several I had completed previously since it can be rather tedious when overdone.

Once I was done with the sketch, I started in  painting a layer of light blue in the sky and then overlaid it thinly with some white– being careful to leave it patchy to create the impression of an overcast spring day. Then I used a dark blueish green to add in the  mountains covered in evergreen trees. The houses on the lighter yellow green foothills were all painted in earth tones to keep them from drawing too much attention away from the focal point. Next came painting the sand. I honestly wasn’t sure how I was going to get the sand right since I had never tried painting sand before. What I ended up doing was painting a layer of a brownish mustard yellow and then using a two variants of it applied in semi-transparent horizontal strokes to create highlights and shadows.  After that it was time to put in the water and rocks in the foreground. Although in the reference photo the water was transparent, allowing the sand and rocks below to be visible, I chose to portray it as a vibrant opaque blue instead. With the white sea foam of the waves I added in, it shows more of a feeling of the wind that is constantly blowing along the coast and gives more energy to the piece.  I also added  bits of green on the rocks to give the impression of algae and  perhaps some sea anemones . Finally I added the people, painting them all in blue, red, and white to unify them. When I was almost done I accidenaly got a smudge of the dark blue paint in the sky because I had some wet paint on my hands. Instead of painting over it I decided to use it to make a group of seagulls circling in the air which worked well with the composition.

Explore the tidal pools with Elizabeth on a windy day along the Pacific Coast in Cannon Beach, Oregon.

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