Gray Day

When I was younger, all I wanted to do was paint with oils. I kinda thought they were the only “real” way to paint.

But oils are expensive and time consuming. Living in San Francisco, I had to work a “regular” job and I would come home too tired to even think about oil painting. I liked to do it the right way, mixing up the medium, fat over lean, layering and glazing…

I did various things to de-stress. One day, I just wanted to try watercolor. I had gone to art school so I knew about stretching the paper, choosing a brush and all that. I just thought that watercolor was a “lesser” art.

But I bought some Cotman colors. Picked up a cyclamen at the grocery store on the way home and painted it. And painted it again. And again.

An early painting with salt. I can see everything wrong with it now.

Then I looked at photos I had taken while wandering at the beach. I painted those. No one saw those paintings for years. It was just my therapy.

And about 35 years later, after getting laid off from my job, I just started painting full time. I’m getting better at it.

Recently, with a lot going on, I thought maybe I needed to just paint a beach. There are worse thing, you know.

My inspiration was, of all things, the local news weather page online. The forecast was rain and fog and there was a photo of a local beach all gray. What interested me though, was just the suggestion of rocks or sand at the shoreline in deep blues or grays but so indefinite that it was hard to see if they were really there.

I wondered if I could put down a layer of color, mask the rocks, layer a deeper color, mask again until on the final layer it was almost black. The thought of doing things like that makes my brain hurt a little, so I had to try it.

I drew out a simple beach and started masking with waves/sea foam with Fineline Masking Fluid – therapy for me.

Watercolor on paper

After the waves were masked out, I put down a wash on for the sand/rocks area. I have seen where it can get darker closer to the water and then there will be light streaks or bands as the waves recede. I wanted to try to get that look. The bands kept coming out as being equal and symmetrical no matter how hard I tried to get them random. Oh, well.

My idea was to do a rocky shore by putting down a layer of color, masking rocks, another darker layer of color, more masking and so on.

Watercolor on paper

Here’s the next layer with more masking.

Watercolor in progress

And the next. I find it scary to go darker like this.

Watercolor in progress

Another layer and some splattering with Payne’s Gray and I start to paint the water. Daniel Smith Payne’s Gray is much more intense than I am used to after using Windsor Newton for years. I almost prefer the WN as it is not so dominant.

I actually forget the colors I used for the water, some ochres in the foreground along with Goethite, Terre Verte which is probably my favorite color right now and maybe cobalt?

Watercolor in progress

And now to be brave and paint the sky…

Watercolor in progress

The moment of truth – taking the mask off. There are color variations in these photos, I know. If I can, I photo with my cell phone outside in the shade. If I can’t do that, I photo over the bathroom sink as the vanity lights are nice and even. The colors vary though. And then for the final piece, I use my scanner that tends to drop out some light blues.

There are a lot of things I am learning and still to be learned.

Not quite what I wanted with that shoreline but it works OK. One thing I wish I had done was to add to the perspective by making the rocks in the foreground larger then making them smaller and smaller and maybe a bit less round but more oval. Again, it’s all a learning experience!

Watercolor in progress

Now the final step is to go over all the masking with a wet brush to soften the lines…

And here it is~

Finished watercolor
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  1. Love your posts, so inspirational. I’ve tried doing the sea foam, now to try the waves! Thank you 😊

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