Our trip to Isle of Palms in May was primarily about visiting with family and celebrating my parent’s 50th anniversary (51st now since it had to be postponed for a year), but it was also our first vacation in a long time, so I wanted to take intentional time to do things that were restful and restorative. Being at the beach and gathering shells were a part of that, but so was painting and sketching. Not only are those endeavors relaxing, but they help me really pay attention, be observant, be present, and appreciate the beauty around me. So, I made a commitment that I would paint or sketch every day, even if it was just a quick pencil sketch while sitting at the beach. And I stuck to that, even doing some quick landscape sketches in the car ride.
I also wanted to work on watercolor sketches and drawing moving scenes and subjects from life. Those are out of my comfort zone when I’m more comfortable painting from pictures in my studio (or still life vignettes that don’t move) and I get impatient with watercolor. But, I was able to work on both! In addition to watercolor and pencil sketches in my sketchbook, I did several oil paintings when we sat out on the covered porch in the afternoons. The weather was absolutely perfect, so sitting outside was delightful.
I planned on painting the beach a lot, but we didn’t have very many interesting clouds over the ocean. Most of the clouds seemed to be over the mainland, meaning the view of the ocean was pretty uninteresting to paint. Blue sky, blue ocean, surf, and sand. So, I ended up painting and sketching the side view of the beach to get the people and umbrellas, as well as the houses just behind the dunes. There was one white house that I was particularly fond of.
I even braved sketching a woman sitting in a chair, reading a book. I loved how her sunhat was blowing in the wind and how the light fell on her. I did take a few pictures in case she moved and it was fortunate that I did because she was up and in the water after just a few minutes. It’s definitely not a perfect sketch, but it was a good exercise and I am looking forward to revisiting this scene in oils.
I tried to focus on capturing a specific mood and not every perfect detail. Looking at the sketchbooks of well-known and well-respected artists has helped me loosen up when it comes to using my own sketchbook as a learning tool. It’s supposed to be filled with experimentation, practice, mistakes, bad ideas, and good ideas. If you can’t let loose and try something in your sketchbook where can you try it?
Sketching on the beach consisted of holding my sketchbook on my lap while I sat in a beach chair under the umbrella. When using watercolors, I would precariously balance a jelly jar filled with water on my armrest. (After being so careful with it, it accidentally spilled on my mom once when I bumped it with my elbow!)
On the covered porch, I would set up my pochade box for painting with oils. I’ve only used it a few other times, but it’s a great little travel studio that isn’t crazy expensive. (THIS is the one I use.) It can be mounted on a tripod, but I would just work at the table.
These are a few of the pieces I painted in oils…
This one is based on a picture I took when we were shelling one morning…
I love painting the houses in Charleston. I did a couple of little studies to test it out and then worked on an 8 x 10 once I felt like I would do an okay job at them…
Angles are such an interesting thing, especially when you’re working on architecture. I would feel like a line would be tilted in one direction only to hold up my brush and realize it was slanted in the opposite direction. I don’t know how/why our brains do that, but it can be surprisingly challenging to get all of the angles right. I had to do a lot of checking and correcting.
I loved this painting, though. It took me several hours and I had to leave it, eat dinner, and come back to finish it, but it was worth all of the time. I learned so much and I love the finished painting. I can’t wait to paint more.
My mom took a picture of me while I was using my apron to shade the finished painting to share it on Instagram!
We did have a few times when there were awesome clouds over the ocean, so I did do some beach/cloud paintings based on the pictures I took…
This was one of my first oil paintings of the trip and it was a struggle! It’s interesting how being out of my normal painting place (my studio) sort of threw me off!
I have a lot more photos to paint (I took some pictures down at the marina, too) and I plan to put them all together in my next sale. In addition to painting the beach, ocean, boats, and houses, I’m working on some still-life paintings of the shells I collected. I have had so much fun painting the oyster shells so far. I love that they are a little abstract.
I’m balancing working on this collection for the next sale with paintings for commercial clients and private commissions, so I’m not sure when it will launch, yet, but I will let you know! I like to have a good number of paintings available in the hopes that more people can get one they are excited about.
I loved gathering new inspiration and stepping out of what’s comfortable. It made the trip even richer.
You can find other posts about our trip to Isle of Palms HERE.