Undeterred by the sand flowing away from under your feet, you struggle on, brushing past the coarse marram grass and then glimpse sight of the sea. Now, you realise you’ve reached your objective.
This is the last of the short series of beach pastels I have been doing of late. All used the technique of underpainting with gouache and then overworking with pastel. I was trying to get a feeling of intimacy with this one, compared to the others which had a more panoramic detachment.
You may recall in the post before last the gloomy vista of rain clouds about to come over Birkdale beach – and I said it was part of a series, so here is the next one, a contrasting evening on the beach, with the sun hanging low and the light shimmering off the wet sands in the distance. I did this type of evening view in watercolour and it sold a year or two back, so I thought that I would try a version in pastels, placing tonal washes down in gouache first and then working over them in pastel as I had in my earlier pastel.
Mystery encroaches at this hour. The low light casts shadows and darkens ravines between marram covered dunes. Tracks of past beachgoers get highlighted by a glow on the raised edges that is then underscored by the shadow of the depression. Wisps of grass, catch the low sun and seem to glow against shadowed inclines. Soon the mystery will be complete.
I am working on a small series of local beach scenes in pastel. It gives me an opportunity to try out the use of gouache to quickly block in masses of light and shade. Darker passages can take a lot of pastel to build up and painting in a mixture of colours that can be added to with pastel seems to give a fresher result. I have done it with acrylic before, but I felt gouache will retain a better tooth to the paper.
On the beach, the marram grass covered dunes give way to lonely wet sands stretching way out to the breaking waves, almost imperceptible, in the distance. Above, dark clouds gather across the Irish sea in readiness to sweep in eastwards, lashing the country with the moisture picked up when crossing the Atlantic.
It is a good place to walk, in waterproof boots, on a windswept days past wading birds, to view what flotsam the preceding tide has deposited on the wet sand. Broken branches, like reaching limbs, festooned with flags of algae and black jewels of coal scoured from the Welsh coast dot the sand like pebbles.
Yesterday was a now rare visit to a life session. I took my pastels, deciding to focus on one medium – well apart from half a dozen pencil sketches done at different points of the session.
Before I went to the session, I played around with with photos off the internet from Line of Action and explored possibilities I could try yesterday. Here are a few of them, below.
I wanted to mix bold and unusual colours alongside more natural flesh tones.
I hoped that by playing around in my own time, without the pressures of a ticking clock, I would develop a process I could take into the life room and produce whilst dealing with all the other issues that crop up.
Well, it half worked. I think I should be doing more at home with photos so that I have a clearer and more honed pathway when I attend another session.
Here is the final part of our post Christmas walk that I have been describing recently. The muddy, last, stretch along the canal and back to the car. This is a scene I have painted before as the light on the moored boats sings against the surrounding shadows.
When a painting requires such tight detail I would naturally reach for the watercolour or acrylic. I havent the patience finding or making slivers with which to place small, precise marks. Here. I used some conte pencils for the really fine details, though I tried to keep this to a minimum and just hint at the shapes of the boats.
I love the branch which hangs over the canal.
I wasnt as pleased with the other pastel I did of the fields over the moss that we passed. Initially it was the patchwork of greens, interspersed with the winter trees that attracted me, but in the end I found the result a little disappointing. Perhaps I should have made more of the sky and pushed the fields into a tighter mass.
In my last post I showed a painting taken from our post Christmas walk. Here is another one from earlier in that same walk. It shows the route of a long defunct railway track called the Cheshire Lines which served Manchester, Liverpool, Chester and this line ran out to Southport, where I live.
Now it’s a walking and cycling path which crosses the moss from Southport to Maghull, north Liverpool.
I thought it might be worth doing in pastel. The greens were vivid in the low winter sun and the passing rainclouds in the background heightened this effect – and, of course, there are some puddles.
Now I have the pastels out I have started a couple more from the same walk, so there will be a small series from the same day – I give you fair warning.
I like this area and have done quite a few plein air paintings and studio paintings from around this path. Here are some of the watercolours I have posted in the past of scenes from the Cheshire Lines:
It’s a subject I’ve tackled before – those fleeting moments before the land appears to be subsumed into the atmosphere – you glimpse the striking form of a field, building or tree in the corner of your eye. Then as you check the detail the view dissolves into memory.
This is one of those moments. The subject to tackle in a quiet hiatus, amid the Christmas melee. The pastel lends itself to getting a rapid image; handy as I didnt have too long before my absence was noted. At least I’m left with some accomplishment, with a painting done almost as fast as this pause in the weather.
Yesterday I went to a life session organised by a friend of mine. He runs it once a month. Despite the stiff poses it was good practice to work under a time constraint and here I managed to get around behind the model to catch him dozing off and paint this in acrylics.
The early poses had some life in them and got me back into the swing of things. Another weekly life session started up when I was on holiday the other week, but they decided to fold after two meetings. Such a shame, I was looking forward to restarting with the group on my return. The only other sessions around here are in small, crowded venues and with the level of contagion we have at present I am reluctant to join them. So it is a self inflicted exile.
The stiff pose did me no favours on this pastel. In hindsight I should have opted for a more focussed image, but I perversely wanted to draw the full figure and it suffers because of it. Still, I suppose that is what these sessions are for – making mistakes and learning from them.
Still, it was good to get back to something that I did two or three times a week before covid, though the way things are, my next session wont be for another month.
This morning I am taking some paintings into the pop-up gallery for my first collaborative exhibition in the run up to Christmas. This one will run for a month and I will have to do one day a week manning the shop and hoping for some healthy sales.
So now on to the second exhibition, in November. I have already sent in my list for the catalogue, but not all the paintings had been completed. This one above is the last of the eight I will be submitting. I felt I needed a local beach scene: similar to the one I am putting in today. I must admit I prefer that one, but what one person likes, another doesnt. Again it is of Formby beach, a popular destination in this area.