Painting the California Coastline – Part 1

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I’m working on an art collection inspired by the Central Coast area of California in and around San Luis Obispo county.  While I’ve been living in Morro Bay for a couple of months, I’ve been especially inspired by the ocean and the colors that form where the sky meets the water on the horizon.

I want to share with you guys the behind-the-scenes process. Part 1 here focuses on some of the things that happen before any paint gets on a canvas.

1 – Finding Inspiration

First things first, some inspiration! It’s where the fun starts. 🙂

An early afternoon by Morro Rock…

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A late afternoon hike near Los Osos, CA…

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Dusk on the first not-rainy day after a stormy week in Morro…

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2 – Sketching Forms and Making Plans

When I’m organizing my thoughts about a place, I like to make some quick and rough sketches to play with relative scale, feel, and overall architecture of places I like. Like these:

 

 

Spending this time translating the world onto the page helps me decide which direction to take the eventual paintings.

3 – Study the colors

Along with the sketches (and before I start any work on the canvas) I like to play with mixing up colors to discover which tones I like, which hue best captures the feeling I’m trying to convey, and how well colors play together. I end up with a lot of splotches like these:

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And alongside the color experiments, I’ll do some just-for-fun/warm myself up paintings that focus on how I want the paints to come together and play off each other. For these I will use either some thick paper or inexpensive canvas boards from Michael’s (great for practicing on when you don’t want to waste a whole canvas!).

Here are a couple of examples of fast practice paintings I did to see how my colors might look in a composition:

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(When I work on these color studies, the kinds of questions I ask myself are: does the light seem right? Am I conveying the mood I want? Are the colors balanced?)

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So that’s an overview of starting the painting process! Finding inspiration, sketching out forms and plans, and studying the colors.

In Part 2, I’ll talk about how I am preparing my canvases and I’ll show more of the collection!

And this Thursday, I’ll post a time-lapse of the process for this painting:

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(I just love the clouds in that one.)

Let me know what questions you have in the comments!

 

Kate

 

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6 Comments

  1. I really like the idea of sketching out a miniature before a full painting. How much do you find yourself sticking closely to the original vision vs. finding the painting along the way?

    1. A little of both! Once I’ve settled on colors and spacing I use that to draw out my plan on the canvas, but there’s usually some adjusting along the way before the painting is finalized – especially when it comes to the final details 🙂