During the last week of our June holiday the weather settled down, becoming bright, sunny and pleasantly warm. On one gorgeous early evening, the light was magical over the cliffs of Housel Bay looking west towards the Lizard lighthouse in Cornwall. I had to paint it.
Back home I decided to take my watercolour sketch and work it up into a finished painting. While I am pleased with the original, I don’t think it really captured the quality of the light. However just sitting in front of it, painting it en plein air, the scene etched into my mind, and if I shut my eyes I can still take myself back there.
Besides the sketch I also took a photo the next day for reference. For me it felt important to get the proportions within the painting correct. My original sketch made the cliffs a little too deep.
I gridded up the photo and transferred the basic outline in pencil onto a piece of 60cm by 20 cm MDF. I primed this with Golden 100 acrylic resin to prevent any potential staining from the board seeping up into the paint layer over time. Over this I painted three coats of Winsor and Newton’s white acrylic gesso primer. I didn’t sand this as I wanted the brush marks to contribute to the finished painting.
Once the pencil drawing was complete I reinforced the line using Ultramarine Blue. If any portion of the line remained visible in the finished painting it would sink back and not jar.
For the under painting I wanted to intensify the warmth. As you can see from the foreground this bordered on cadmium orange in places.
The background cliffs, sea and sky fell into place quite quickly, which is more than can be said for the foreground… Unfortunately I went a bit OTT with the ‘grassiness’. I knew it was both too busy and too light in tone, so I decided to completely over paint it.
This was the right decision. I worked with broader strokes from a flat brush to establish the form and the general run of the grasses. Once dry I darkened and unified the foreground using several alternating glazes of Alizarin Crimson and Ultramarine Blue. This intensified the brightness of the evening light. For me this highlights one of the real advantages of acrylic over oils. In a warm room I managed to lay down several layers of glaze all in the space of an hour. This could have taken days or weeks if I’d been working in oils.
Very pleased with the final result. The exciting thing for me is that this is one of the first paintings I’ve produced ready for Andy Bill’s ‘Closer to the Art 2’ event on October 25th in Stone in Staffordshire. It will be framed and up for sale with several other works. This will be my first appearance at any show. Ooh, scary! Watch this space.