Wokingham Art Society
Demo by Melanie Cambridge
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Seascape in Acrylic, 15 October 2013
Melanie got straight down to business. She mixed her colours from a modest palette:
3 yellows (lemon, cadmium and ochre);
3 blues (cerulean, ultramarine and purple);
3 reds (dark orange, burnt sienna and magenta).

She doesn't use special brushes: just a couple of nylon flats (No.7 and No. 10) and a round synthetic hog.

She had decided to work from a Cornish sketch of hers but wanted to re-design the composition. Melanie prefers to locate the horizon and other interesting bits by thinking 2/5 rather than 1/3: it's nearer to the 0.382 golden section.

Author's Note:
Please excuse the photo colouring. Uneven lighting, shadows on the paper and my limited photo-processing skills combined badly. The sky and beach here were white paper! (Sam Dauncey)
She drew in charcoal on a pre-cut 15" x 20" MDF board prepared with a couple of coats of gesso. She gets her boards from Wessex Pictures in Leatherhead.

First the high horizon, then the central rock and the cliffs, then the waterline, the mid-ground rocks, two people and a dog. She adjusted the cliffs quite a lot before she was satisfied - something you can easily do with charcoal.
"Don't measure. If it looks right it is right."

Then she started painting in the darkest areas: the cliffs. This is fairly conventional for oils or acrylics. It implies that you tend to work back: from nearer to more-distant things. Melanie finds that if she starts with the lights they are not light enough, so the darks have to get too dark. For the cliffs she mixed Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine to produce an amost-black, modifying it with Yellow Ochre to get some texture.
She spent some time tweaking the cliffs: more green and some lemon yellow on the intermediate cliff and even more green and white for the distant ones (with touches of red and blue/purple to grey them down).

Melanie washed and wiped her brush very frequently so none of the cliff colour dirtied the 'cerulean and white with a touch of ultra' sky. More white, with a touch of yellow ochre, was used closer to the horizon.

For the clouds she started with white, a little yellow and some Galeria heavy structure gel (to give more body to the paint). Very few bigger ones at the top - more smaller ones lower down - all with flat bottoms. An Ultra and Burnt Sienna grey puts shadows into their undersides and folds.
The sea had to start with the cerulean of the sky but has more purple in the distance and more green nearer the shore.

A big wave started with a horizontal strip of darkish grey into which white was painted for spray and crest and pulled down for foam. The nearer waves are just strokes of white almost dry-brushed in the direction of movement but with green underneath where light has passed through the water to become visible underneath the crest.

Yellow and a little turquoise started the sandy beach but substantially more red (burnt sienna and dark orange) was added as time passed.
This was a good time for the coffee break. It's best for the background to be dry before you get into detail.
The second session was full of little adjustments. Even the figures and the dog were done with a few quick strokes.
There was no contrast between the skin colour and the beach, so the beach was repainted behind
A backround rock had to be "biggened" (technical infant school term) to make a highlighted head show up
Reflections were a matter of seconds
Arbitrary colours, not too bright, were put into the striped wind-break
The dog needed a couple more dabs of colour to make it clear it was running into the picture
The beach was made much wetter (with silver - a cerulean-tinted white - and some very watery purple)
"How about a few sails in the distance?"
"The rocks need a bit of highlighting and more grass".

Detail taken from Rod's projector screen
"Stop fiddling, Melanie", she said to herself.
We had a very effective scene in front of us and had heard lots of interesting comments - all in 100 minutes.
Very enjoyable. Well done, Melanie and many thanks.

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