Category Archives: Back Bay

sand dune sketch and beach report

Wow! Isn’t that amazing?! My problem with putting a title on my post correctly seems to have fixed itself! Thanks, whoever!

It was nice at the beach early this morning, sunny, not too hot and a nice breeze. As I walked down the path between the dunes bugs were after me so I sprayed with DEET and didn’t get bit.

The waves were small and breaking hard right on the sand. It looked like the tide was out. There was a lot of sand in the waves, maybe a rip tide, but you can’t swim there anyway. A couple guys were fishing.

I went as far up the dune to this pretty view at the sign that says “Area beyond this sign closed”, stood on a bare patch of sand to sketch and about 15 min. later a whole bunch of little ants were on my feet! I was wearing sandals. They didn’t bite either. I’d have stayed longer but, ants.

scouting for plein air inspiration

bird watcher’s paradise

The Marsh Causeway in North Carolina is a real pretty drive not too far from Virginia Beach. I knew Mackay Island Wildlife Preserve was just across the state line but didn’t know how to get there. When I was at Back Bay I saw a sign showing where the boat launches are in the area and a couple days ago I drove down Princess Ann Rd. looking for them and said, to myself,” where in the hell am I ?” because I was so far out in the boonies, but it’s still Virginia Beach. In fact Virginia Beach is huge and mostly agricultural south of the city. It goes all the way to the state line. That part is called Pungo. Then you find yourself on the Marsh Causeway going into Knotts Island.

Mackay Island from an overlook
It’s a huge marsh, looks a lot like Back Bay and False Cape

It was cloudy, cool and windy, which was nice because the wind kept the bugs down. A couple days ago I rode my bike in Back Bay and before I left the parking lot I sprayed with DEET but didn’t really overdo the spray and got a bad bite on my elbow!

gravel road and canal

It’s flat as a pancake. They have the road blocked after you get a mile or so into Mackay but I saw a car from Ohio parked there and no people, so I guess it’s ok to walk or bike, just not drive. I might go back another time and check out that part of the road.

a view of the bay from the causeway
a little chop on the water

This is a view of the bay from the causeway at a bridge.

Probably not a great place to sketch right there by the side of the road.

Anyway, I’m glad I finally found my way to Mackay Island and Knott’s Island. I saw some boat launches and canoe launches.

A couple days ago I found a real picturesque canoe launch on Muddy Creek Rd. in Virginia Beach, not too far down the road but out in the country. There was a broken boat covered with mud and half sunk down in the mud. That would make an interesting subject but it’s also next to the road, but the road doesn’t have much traffic. So, I don’t know, I might go back to that one.

Scouting for good places to draw in plein air is something I have to do and exploring around here is important too. I don’t always sketch, a lot of times I just look around.

pointillism experiment finished

The artist that invented pointillism, Seurat, had his color theory down to a science. I wish I knew how he did it but I see so many variations of pointillism I guess most artists put their own spin on it.

close up

Last week when I got to Back Bay the clouds were so pretty I couldn’t resist trying to paint them. It was windy and the clouds were moving fast. I got some general shapes dotted in for the cloud shadows and when I wanted to puff them up with more volume they were all different so I decided to wing it when I got home.

I can’t tell if this experiment is working or not. If it’s not, and you can tell me how to improve next time, please don’t be afraid to advise me. I’m not sensitive about a critique and I don’t feel emotionally attached to my paintings, so my feelings don’t get hurt easily if it’s a flop.

cloud close up

The thing about painting at home is there are too many distractions here. When I go out to paint in plein air I’m leaving everything behind and concentrating on the drawing and painting. It might seem like people out in public would be a worse distraction but the people don’t bug me. I like when someone is interested in what I’m doing. Most of the time I’m alone out there except for walkers passing through.

zen painting experience

water in the bay

You know that funny feeling when you walk out on a wooden pier and you can see down between the boards and the water is moving under your feet? That happened to me yesterday at Back Bay.

There was a nice breeze and the water was moving pretty fast and so were the clouds. It made me feel a little dizzy but I’m a landlubber. I got used to the movement. It was beautiful out there, sunny windy and not too hot. I hung around for hours dotting my pointillist painting and mixing colors so I could continue dotting at home.

Some people were there but not too many, which I was glad for because dotting paint would look weird to the average tourist and I didn’t feel like explaining that I’m trying to do a pointillist painting.

I enjoyed the experience even more than my ordinary plein air experiences, and that feeling stayed with me for the rest of the day. It was real zen.

painting experiments with oils in progress

There are two experiments happening here, pointillism and masking fluid on oil paint.

I can’t find much technical advice on pointillism, like did the pointillists do an underpainting? Did they mix colors or use paint straight out of the tube? Are the dots supposed to touch, overlap or should there be space between all the dots? I’m going to have to guess. I know the rules of the academy. If I knew the rules of pointillism I’d try to stick to them for the learning process. Maybe there are no rules.

There’s an app for making dots if you like to do digital paintings, but I’m not into apps and it might be better for me to just wing it so I can improve my painting skill.

In this close up you can see the masking fluid dots which are covered by ultramarine blue.

I want to save some bright orange dots to represent shiny reflections of the sky on the water. It would be easier to have bright orange dots showing ( if this works) than if I paint the orange on top of the water when I’m finished with painting the water dots because the orange is a transparent color and if I want to put orange on top of blue and gray dots I’d have to underpaint them with white like I did with my azaleas, which are a transparent pink. I need to put water colored gray dots on top of the blue and that will make a thicker layer of paint on top of the masking fluid and also take over a week to dry before I can try to take the masking fluid off the painting to show the orange dots. It might not work out or it might work. Either way, I’ll post the results.

This is a color experiment in more than one way. I under painted my paper with orange because it’s the complimentary color of blue. The sky isn’t really blue but kind of hazy when I go to Back Bay lately. And the water isn’t really blue but kind of a mixture of two different grays.

You can see the underpainting of the foliage on the opposite shore. I did it with a red gray because it’s mainly a greenish gray and the red gray would be the complimentary color.

This was a real no no at the academy, tinting the painting with an unnatural color to start. They would call this “forcing color”. It might take away any depth and the academy was into creating the illusion of depth. Modern art doesn’t care about aerial perspective which is the illusion of depth. Pointillists were modern.

I often see a landscape with a bright tint showing that isn’t there in nature. Some artists like violet or red and will tint their canvas with a bright color because the landscape around here doesn’t have any bright colors and the artist doesn’t like to paint mostly grays. You can see spots of violet or red or some color showing through between brush strokes. It’s a modern look and it does take away any aerial perspective. When I see a bright tint showing through I say to myself, “forced color is weak.” Now I’m doing it.

This is 18 x 12. Dotting the whole paper will take some time. That’s ok. Patience is my super power! hahahah

sketch from Back Bay / charcoal and chalk

My sketchbook has assorted colors, blueish, greenish, tan, gray and white. The white is too bright to enjoy drawing on in plein air. Sometimes I tint white paper with pastel, blend it down and spray it with fixative. It’s easier to draw on. The white has so much glare in the sun. That’s what I did for this sketch, tinted it gray first.

Darn it, the waves look a little weak. I need more practice drawing and painting water. It’s always a challenge and it changes every day. I’d like to paint this scene. This is a good time of year to do it. The weather was sunny, cool and windy today. It felt refreshing and I had the overlook all to myself

Except for the water, which might be difficult to paint, this scene looks easy to do. I’m trying to decide, it might not be a good idea to take my easel because I can’t anchor it with the spikes on the wooden overlook. I might be able to paint on paper and lean my drawing board on the railing. I’d have to keep a hand on my easel all the time since it’s windy there.

panoramic dune paintings with close ups

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left

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center

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right

Finally finished! time to celebrate!

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This is a close up of the small piece of ocean you can see from there. I always see a texture on the ocean. This could be white caps or sparkles. I’ll let the viewer decide if it looks like either one of those. Maybe from far away. Also, you can see the texture of the grass I made with the Inktense pencils.

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This is the leaf texture I made with masking fluid to save the lighter leaf colors and use a dark green to darken the shadows. The grass texture in the shade was made with my modified fan brush and masking fluid.

I enjoy making textures. Masking fluid is a great product for that.

Some things I can use from my old school training are how to make a feeling of light by working on my shadows. If you use the full range of values from black to white and put the darkest shadows in under some lighter contrasting shapes, leaves, the viewer gets the feeling of sunlight, and depth. Could you walk in there and get out of the sun? Maybe, but you’ll need bug spray.

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This shows a sand slide. The smoother sand is the part that slid down and the top inch or two of the rougher sand is the part of the dune where it broke. I hope you can see what I mean.

I like the way that the dunes mimic the ocean with their wavy shapes and their rising and falling with peaks and breakers, if you can imagine it.

dune painting and wildlife report from VA Beach

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When I was driving down the Sandbridge Rd. this morning a deer crossed the road in front of my car. I saw it from far away, a doe, as it walked across the ditch. It didn’t jump, just walked. Then as I was driving down the Back Bay rd. a big sand crab crossed the road.

A couple days ago I had to come to a stop on that road for a big turtle.

One day last week I was walking down the gravel road to my overlook and I saw something brown in the grass next to the road, not moving, and I wondered what it was. It was a big rabbit and not your ordinary wild rabbit but one with real pretty tortoise shell  colored  fur. As I got closer it didn’t move but kept on eating the grass. I walked by it only 3′ away and it didn’t run.

There is a bumper crop of dragon flies down there and one flew right into my neck! You can see hundreds of them buzzing all around this scene.

It was hot when I got there at 7:30 but there was a nice breeze which made it more tolerable. Now it’s hot as hell out there.

I’m almost finished with my dune painting triptych. This is the center section, finished.

dune paintings debriefing

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This morning I worked on the top part of the dunes adding some Inktense pencil to draw some grass. I also put a second glaze on the sand in the light areas and the shadows. The foliage on the bottom of the paper needs more work. The sky and sea are finished.

I can’t tell if I messed it up or not. I can’t fix it so I have to continue. An old dude (birdwatcher)  is watching my progress almost every day. He asked me if I sell my paintings and I said no. The first few times I saw him he didn’t talk much then once he talked a lot. If I don’t tell him I’m not sure if it’s working he’ll think it’s great. Anyway, I don’t really fear failure and if it is a failure let it be epic. That’s my attitude.

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This is the left panel of the triptych with one layer of glazes. To make my shady sand color I painted a thin glaze of gray with burnt umber. Then today I used a blue gray glaze  on top of the first layer. And I went over the light sandy color again today before scribbling in the dark green Inktense pencil lines. I think the two glazes in the shadows of the dune looks like a good gray now. The viewer’s  eye can see both  the blue and the brown glazes mixing together. The viewer might not actually notice the two glazes but it makes more interesting shadows.

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This is the center section of the triptych with one layer of glazes.

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This is the right section of my panorama with one layer of glazes.

The funny thing about painting a triptych is that even though I want the paintings to be hung in order and close together so it looks like a panorama, there’s no guarantee it will get hung that way, so just in case some idiot curator can’t hang it right, each piece should be strong enough on it’s own.

Now, you may say, “Chris, why are you so hard on curators?”

I’ll give you  a couple examples.

Years ago, I drew my skull of a bull with pastel, the skull facing left, center and right to be a triptych. The 3 pastels were strong, colorful, bold and kind of moody. I entered a national contest in Boulder CO. and all 3 were accepted! I was looking forward to it because I thought my pastels would dominate the show. I got plane tickets and made reservations for my Mom to go with me to Boulder for the opening. We got there a day early and I rented a car and wanted to find my way to the venue in the day so I wouldn’t get lost at night. I went in to get a sneak peek at the show and only one of my pastels was hanging. I might add that it was a big job packing all 3 in one big box and shipping them out there. I asked the person in charge of hanging the show where the other two of the triptych were since 3 pieces got accepted and were so large it would be hard to miss 2 of them all in the same box. The lady said they had migrant workers unpacking the boxes and they must have missed the other two. I had labeled it extra large, 3 pastels on the box. They had to send someone up to their storage unit in Fort Collins to bring my other two pastels down to Boulder and then they weren’t hung together as a triptych but spread around the show. I guessed they weren’t expecting me to show up from Virginia. This is why if you enter a show in another state you have to go, or your painting might not get hung at all.

 

One time in Richmond I entered a triptych in a show with a Richmond city theme. I did oils on smaller canvases of the skyline and the river. I guess they didn’t have enough entries for the show because they spread my 3 paintings out over a 12′ wall, so the effect of a panorama was lost. For a triptych the paintings should be hung with only a couple inches between them.

ok, enough of my complaining. This triptych might never get entered so, no more of that aggravation.

 

Dune painting color rough and dune pix

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I painted this at home and took it to the beach to compare it to real life. I didn’t paint nearly enough greenery but you might not notice it’s missing until you see the photos below. The dead trees need sunlight and I just painted them solid gray here. I was trying to make it easier for myself, now I know I have to paint the light on the trees. I guess I’ll have to go there to work on my big paintings after all. I miss too much working from my charcoal sketches at home. Plus, painting at home is boring when you get used to painting in plein air. One good thing about the dunes is that the foliage doesn’t change much over months so I can still take my time finishing my big panorama plan.

 

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Gosh darn it, my computer’s acting up again. I thought these would never load.

 

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I bought  a sunflower at the farm stand on Sandbridge Rd. And I got some scallops, a stuffed clam and a tomato. I might try to sketch the sunflower later. The lady told me it would last 7 to 10 days if I don’t put more than an inch or so of water in every day. Too much water rots the stem.

This is a busy week at the beach but I got out this morning before it got too hot and crowded with heavy traffic.