Category Archives: charcoal

waves looking South with unexpected figure drawing practice / charcoal and chalk

The weather hasn’t been great around here lately. It cooled off a little the past few days but stayed real humid and we had rain. Today was great out there! We have a nice breeze from the Northeast so I faced South. I was getting started on my sketch and two ladies sat right in front of me. They were wearing backpacks that I didn’t want to draw. So, I only got the one figure in the sketch. She was moving around and looking at me but didn’t know what I was doing.

The wind blew my paper half off the drawing board but I had a roll of tape in my bag. When I hurriedly taped it the paper didn’t go down evenly. That’s why there’s a shade in the sky, where the paper is slightly warped.

A man stopped to talk and asked if he could take my picture so I said yes. Then I asked if he could email the pic to me and he said he can’t off this. He was holding an expensive camera. Then he said he didn’t have anything to write my email address on and I said I have something to write on. He obviously didn’t want to do it. He said carry on with what you’re doing and left. Made me kind of mad. It reminds me of some other people I know who don’t mind asking me for what they want and I say ok but when something is important to me, no can do. If I insist they ghost me. The jerks.

Most people that take my pic out there will at least try to send it to me even if I can’t use it for some reason.

I stopped at the Happy Oyster on my way home and got some fried oysters to treat myself. They were delish, as always.

We have more rain coming in this week. I hope I can get out to draw another morning real soon.

Atlantic Ocean looking NNE / charcoal and chalk

This is my favorite spot so far to draw waves. They redid the path from the parking lot to the beach and put a nice thick mat all the way over the dunes to the beach.

It was calm and the waves were small again. Flies were biting me even though I used bug spray. It was getting too hot and humid by the time I left. I worked on this for around an hour. It was still nice to get out on the beach and sketch.

They had a sale at Jerry’s Artarama and I got 3 of these big pieces of Canson Mi Tientes paper for $6!

Atlantic Ocean looking Southeast / charcoal and chalk

The wind was calm and the sky was reflecting on the water as I was looking in that direction. The waves were small.

A couple guys were fishing and I tried to sketch one but it was pretty weak so I erased it.

A lady with a camera stopped and asked me what kind of tracks those were in the sand. I hadn’t noticed them. I thought they were raccoon tracks but I’m not sure. She said she saw the same tracks about 1/4 mile down the beach. She also saw a sign that said there are bob cats in the area. So we can’t completely rule out a bob cat. I didn’t have my camera.

This spot is a little easier to get to so I might take my camera along some time.

These are my Kneaded erasers that I use to work with charcoal and chalk or pastel.

I bought a new one to replace the oldest one on the bottom of the photo. The one in the middle is getting old but still workable.

They’re not exactly sticky but they’re tacky. To clean them you stretch it like taffy and fold it back over on itself. Keep doing that a few times and it’s renewed.

Kneaded erasers are great for charcoal because it doesn’t matter how many times you erase, you won’t wreck the paper.

Atlantic Ocean looking North on large paper / charcoal and chalk

Every time I drive to the ocean front to draw I am so happy. This is the best thing for me. My therapy. I think what did I do to deserve this? Must have been something real good because I never thought I’d retire to the beach and get to do this. But I don’t really believe in karma. You could look at it another way if you did believe in karma. You might say this is a consolation prize for all the s— I been through in my life. Now I get to sit by the ocean and draw.

Anyway, I think I’m improving on my waves. I’ll do more sketches then when I have a few taped to the wall I can pick the best waves and try to do them again in a painting.

I see a texture on the ocean so I don’t want to paint it flat. I’m experimenting with background waves a little too. To do the ocean I filled it in with charcoal but not solid, then I went back and erased and blended the charcoal into the paper, blending and lifting some out at the same time to give it some unevenness and hopefully wavy directions. Then I wanted a little swell so I added a little more charcoal and didn’t blend it down.

Drawing with charcoal, for me, is as much erasing as it is drawing. And it goes faster than a pencil because you can use the side of the charcoal and block in a large areas faster. It took me around 2 hours to get this sketch. Also, a beach is a simple scene, sand, sky, ocean, little bit of dunes far away, and a misty horizon. I’d get bored drawing the same thing again and again but not this because it’s always changing and the waves move. Plus, it is so sweet to just hang around there on a nice morning. Tiring to lug my gear over the dune, but worth it.

wave sketch on larger paper / charcoal and chalk

It was really nice out there this morning with a strong wind from the North. Lots of people were out running, biking, and walking on the way in, but not many on the beach.

It rained last night so the sand wasn’t blowing because it was still wet, but I had to face South to draw. I collapsed my beach cart and leaned my drawing board on it and sat on the sand with my back to the wind.

When I’m trying to observe waves there’s so much going on. You have the wet sand, the sand with a thin layer of water, water rushing back out, big bubbles, water between waves (which direction is that going?) breakers, water in front of breakers and water behind breakers, all moving at once in different directions.

It’s hard to say when to stop. The temptation is to draw too many waves.

The dry paint on my drawing board from previous paintings is showing through causing a texture in the sky. Next time I’ll have to put a few pieces of newsprint under my pastel paper so that doesn’t show up again.

I bought 3 pieces of Canson Mi Tientes pastel paper so I could do 6 large sketches of waves using both sides of the paper. That might be enough practice before I paint the scene because I did wave sketches in the past only smaller. It’s kind of a haul lugging my supplies down the road and the path then over a dune. The beach cart makes it possible. I guess the exercise won’t hurt me.

beach sketch / charcoal and chalk

It was so nice out on the beach early this morning after a long stretch of heat and humidity. Then it rained but the weather changed. It was cloudy but not hot and the bugs weren’t after me even without the DEET. Not many people were there. No fishermen. I don’t know if it’s because it’s Tues. or if rain is coming in. I should check the weather because I’d like to go to another spot later.

One thing I like about this view is that I could get some aerial perspective in the painting by looking the long way up the beach. The buildings on the horizon are faint.

There were no shadows or much contrast at all so I sketched some birds in. They were the darkest things out there. Then I put a few big ghost crabs in too, coming out of their holes.

I could get more waves in the picture if I had a bigger paper.

I meant to tint this paper gray but it came out black. I think it will still work because oils are mostly opaque and it’s good to start dark and work up to the light colors. I put some blue in the sky but it’s not dry yet.

Atlantic Ocean at Back Bay looking North / charcoal and chalk

It was nice out there early this morning. If they had a tornado I didn’t see the damage so maybe it wasn’t too bad. I like the beach erosion that makes a little drop off for a fisherman to sit on. I. was sitting back from him at a respectable distance. It looks like I was closer in my sketch.

Waves aren’t easy to sketch from life because they’re moving. You have to really observe and draw from memory but still compare what you drew to the next wave.

Have you ever seen paintings where the wave looks like it was frozen? Those paintings were done from photos. When I paint waves, however long that might take me to do, my waves will look like they’re moving. I don’t care how many sketches I have to do. I don’t care how many paintings I throw away before I get it down. Stay tuned because I think I can do this right.

It’s out of focus because I tilted the paper on edge.

This is how you can draw a straight line in plein air without a ruler. Tilt the paper so you can look down the edge, close one eye and look at your line. It’s the same as if you were buying a board and you look down the edge to see if it’s warped. Take your time and sketch the line from one side to the other. So my horizon line is ok, not perfect but not bad.

beach sketch looking south / charcoal and chalk

The best time to go is early in the morning at this time of year. It wasn’t too hot and a slight breeze and sunny with no one in that direction.

A lot of guys were fishing behind me and when I drove out a lot of cars were going into Sandbridge, so I avoided today’s big traffic jam. I might shoot for it again tomorrow morning if I get up early enough.

I saw 2 big groups of pelicans skimming up the waves along the shore and when I was leaving some people were standing in the road taking pictures and urging on a huge turtle that was making it’s way across the road.

After I get a few more sketches I’ll try to paint waves again. This time with oils because I’m used to working in oils and might have better success.

quick sketch on the beach

The wind was whipping on the beach again yesterday but in town it was only breezy. I heard some cicadas as I was walking back to my car on the road through the campground at First Landing State Park. I don’t know if they are a part of the big bug invasion this year or not.

The water was choppy. This is the Chesapeake Bay. We don’t get big waves there. Some people surf at the ocean front but if I want to paint big waves with sunlight shining through the curl I might have to drive to the West coast because the waves here aren’t that big. I might go down to Back Bay to sketch waves this summer. The waves are a little bigger but you’re not allowed to surf there and there’s less people on the beach because no swimming either.

I watched a kid running up the sand with a boogie board and quick sketched her but then erased it because I knew I drew her too small. Since I was sitting on the sand everyone’s head was above the horizon line except the person sitting under the canopy and the dog. I like the figures from my position sitting on the sand because having them break up the horizon will make a better composition than if I’m standing and all the heads are on the horizon. That’s a little perspective fact I must have forgotten and remembered yesterday, about sitting down or standing up to draw a figure changes where the head will be on the horizon. I really want to practice painting wet sand reflecting a figure and sky with wet sand not reflecting and also waves. All those things will make it a very challenging project for me but I enjoy looking at paintings where an artist can paint waves and reflections convincingly and I didn’t do that yet. I should try to get more sketches this summer and possibly paint it when it cools down and we have less vacationers on the beach in the fall.

new dune sketch

Now that things are opening up and people are traveling more, let me invite any artist who would like a beach vacation to come here and draw and paint in plein air with me.

I’m not an organizer. You’d have to find your own hotel and food but I’d join you for meals or exploring too.

The plein air events are fun but expensive for a vacation. I’m not interested in making money off artists.

I don’t want to teach. I don’t care about your skill level or what medium you use or what style you fall into.

I’d start a group and not have any fee to join but that might not work since I don’t decide what I’m doing until after breakfast and checking the weather.

If you came to Virginia Beach and didn’t tell me, I’d be sad. If you want to come here, give me your email address in the comments and I’ll give you my number if you are serious about it.

I don’t need to tell you how the beach can help your stress go away.