I was looking through some old photographs for subjects to paint which I haven’t visited for awhile and came across the inspiration for this painting. Sometimes the subject doesn’t grab me for several years until I revisit the pictures but this was only from last summer. I love the beach scenes by Sargent, Sorolla and Zorn, particularly the ones involving children.
For this painting, I decided to work slowly and do plenty of preliminary work. This included several sketches, some Notan studies, and one painting study of the central figure. The latter is actually larger than the figure in the final painting. Maybe I’ll make a bigger painting of the subject someday.
Initially my sketches for the full size painting included more figures, a grouping with an umbrella on the left side, and some figures in the water and walking along the beach. (More on that later.) One of the challenges with any landscape painting is determining the central subject of attraction. I kept scaling back, cutting out the grouping on the left, then most of the figures along the beach. Finally, you’ll see, that I even simplified the figures under the tent; you can tell that they’re people but aren’t distracted by details.
The core focus of the painting is the little girl wearing the fluorescent pink water wings facing the landing flotilla of seagulls. Thus, the title Wings.
The canvas was gessoed and textured. Then it was primed with an orangey color. This warm color adds to the beach effect when small bits show through in the painting.
As you can see in the step-by-step, I started with the larger shapes of the sky, sea and beach. Then added the darks and smaller shapes, finally ending up with the details.
But….no matter how much planning may be done, there are always surprises for the artist and changes to be made. After I had finished the painting, even including my signature, I examined it the next day and it was very obvious something was wrong. I invited my son to comment and he smiled a sly smile. We both laughed. The placement of the beach figures made it look as if they were being attacked by giant seagulls! Ha ha. Those were painted out which helped focus the subject back on the girl and birds.
Overall, I’m pleased with the final results and only wish I had made it larger. However, I’m working on another beach scene which is much larger so will put that up here soon.