This painting was inspired by an early morning walk I took on Carolina Beach. The first morning light hugs the coast and adds a drama to what will soon be a bright hot flat landscape. The morning offers longer shadows. The warm and cool relationships are easy to pick out. I love this dramatic shift. But why paint some old sandy steps?
During a 6 am walk past this structure, I hear a voice in my head “I should paint that”. Some Visuals stop me. I start wondering and taking mental notes. I took a couple photos and moved on. When a scene interrupts my wandering thoughts, I know it’s time to pause and observe what is before me. During these morning walks with a camera I will take 100s of photos. But soon it will time to be going home.
After a bittersweet drive from Carolina Beach back to Ohio, the digital photos are stored. Mentally I close the door on the batch and get back to the daily routine of creating art for collectors or experimenting with new applications of paint. I let those images sit for a while. They will call me back
Why the steps?
What might have attracted my attention was the directional lines this image offered. For painting I’m a fan of depth. Depth brings the viewer in and allows them to mentally camp out for a moment. The lines in this painting kept drawing back to the same focal point. There was also a nice contrast of long curves vs straight architectural. But I had some design work to do.
The background needed more mystery and space. The flat buildings in the back were ok, but it took too much from the focal point of the steps. Taking them out, relaxed things a bit. Thinking back now, they could have made a great abstract pattern of overlapping soft colors that barely expressed they were architecture. But who doesn’t like warm happy clouds?
Another change I thought about making was the pallet. The original photo is very flat. I introduced more of direct angled light that was shooting over my right shoulder. I had to create the light pattern that would hit the grasses, steps and background. I also wanted this explosion of warm plus cool in the sand without overpowering the focal point of the steps.
I’m a huge supporter of visual flow. This flow or path is what helps keep a viewer traveling through a painting. It is a personal preference I have for my work. The painting starts at the bottom and mid part of the steps. We work our way up to the next part of the stairway. The gentle walk continues at the crest of the hill along the railing. The left of the clouds brings us all the way around to the landscape base at the right. The sand at the base invites us to come back for a visit. When looking at the finished piece, I am there.
I usually take my sandals off when I walk up steps like this. The sand is cooler on the feet. The boards make the softest sound with each step. The handrail is aged, weathered and worn. The breeze seems cooler but with pockets of warm. The grasses peak through the sides, reaching to touch the many visitors that travel through. At the top I think to myself; this walk is over.
Is this painting about the end of a walk? It’s a thought that just occurred to me. I’m always a little down when I have to leave something so beautiful behind. Thankfully we always carry memories of the journey. If we are lucky, we go back.
Quick Takeaways from this painting:
Pastry bags! I used pastry bags for some of the grass work. That experiment opened up a whole new set of tools! If you are a painter, try it with acrylics. You oil people out there might want to allow 3-4 months for drying time. Of course chocolate cake frosting would be so much more incredibly wonderful. Mmmmmm