Devon, UK, Thrill Seekers, oil, 12 x 24" (30 x 61 cm)
I am fortunate to live by the sea, which has always encouraged me to carry my camera with me. I would describe myself as an observer and I am constantly seeing inspiration for new paintings within the surrounding seascape, landscape or townscape.
I was exploring the rugged North Atlantic coast of Cornwall (Poldark country) with the aim of finding subject matter in the historic tin and copper mine remains. However, when I stumbled upon this scene, there was no contest—i had the basis of my next painting.
The image in front of me depicted drama; the light, the danger, the surging Atlantic waves below. It was a moment in time that just had to be painted.
My Design Strategy
The strong sunlight was stunning, resulting in interesting shadows. This combined with the geology of the landscape gave some great light and dark passages on the cliffs, with the sunlit sea introducing some beautiful contrasting blue hues.
The temptation, when illustrating climbers, is to go with a vertical format to accentuate the drama. But I saw more drama in the wider landscape, including the ocean. Rather than show the total cliff height I opted for a 1:2 ratio, but no wider as I didn’t want the climbers to appear too small.
I used a number of my photographs as reference for the final composition, cropping and then “importing” the sea surge from one image to another adding strength to the ocean below.
My Working Process
I pencilled the sketch onto gessoed canvas and then blocked in the sea and the various greys in diluted oils. I followed this by applying the base colours to the different strata with bristle brushes, using alkyd white in the mix to speed up the drying time. I then painted in the main cracks and fissures in the cliff face, followed by painting knife layers of colour. It really started to come together when using light acrylic brush touches to the light and shade areas. I added a touch of silver on the shore rocks and dioxazine purple with French ultramarine in the shaded sea foam. I am pleased that the three-dimensional effect still grabs me when I glance at the painting.
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