South Carolina, USA, Oyster Boat Mooring, oil on wood panel, 15 x 30" (38 x 76 cm)
I would have to say my inspiration comes from my love of these vast Lowcountry wetlands. I have paddled through them, fished, caught shrimp and gathered oysters from them. But most of all it’s the importance of these salt marshes; they are the nursery for the ocean’s food chain.
I’m captured by the vastness and depth of theses plains, the meandering channels with deep purplish-brown pluff mud banks. I can also tell the season by the color of the spartina grass, which goes from a vivid green to purple and also raw sienna. Then you have the air, which is always heavy and laden with moisture and shows atmospheric perspective. I was commissioned three other times to reproduce this scene, some of them larger but I insisted on the same ratio.
My Design Strategy
Being that the huge marsh can get a bit boring, I decided to focus on the forward water channel that directs you into the painting; it’s also the main focus of my composition or the center of interest. Then the channel takes a right turn. I thought the distant channels would take you further back into the painting.
The very back waterway I had to use my artistic license. That waterway went from left to right and to me I felt it would be distracting, so I tapered it to a subtle pointer that brings you visually back into the painting. And, of course, we have the heavy air which I simply faded into the tree line to show distance. I want to invite the viewer into my painting.
My Working Process
I always do sketches on site and I take a bunch of detail photographs that I will use in the comfort of my studio. I have done plein air paintings and only use them for reference; you can only do so much in three hours.
I picked one of my photos of this scene that I liked, but it needed work composition wise. I then did about six charcoal sketches, then a final pencil layout. When I was satisfied with the composition, I sketched it out on my canvas.
Then I tone my canvas with light oil paint turpentine washes and different color washes in various areas. When dry, I start laying in the paint; at the end of each session I put newspaper on top of the painting and rub the back of the paper. This is called tunking, and it removes any heavy buildup of paint and it will be dry for the next day’s session.
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