Monday, August 1, 2011

Step by Step

Here is a plein air painting I did for the San Clemente show last month (“Sea Moments” 9x12). After a request from Plein Air Magazine to do a step by step sequence of my painting process, I chose this pier and wave scene while I was competing in the competition. This painting and a feature article on me will be in the fall issue of Plein Air.

When painting the ocean, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, it’s important for me to “select” a moment in time that piques my interest the most. I always enjoy the wave mid-break—you get some of the white foam along with the water lights and shadows created by the cresting wave. Once I’ve selected a spot to paint, I sit and watch many sets roll in to determine the best layout of the wave. So, here is the sequence from start to finish:

Step 1
This is the overall scene before I began, with one of the waves breaking.

Step 2
My initial sketch of the scene. A rough idea of shapes and where I want to put elements.

Step 3
A block in of the darkest part of the painting. Simplifying the underside of the pier.

Step 4
Roughed in the top part of the pier and the small structures at the end.

Step 5
Getting the correct color and value for the darkest part of the ocean and shadow of the cresting wave.

Step 6
Laying in the distant water and where it peeks through the underside of the pier.

Step 7
Finding the color notes in the white wash area of the wave.

Step 8
More work in the foam area.

Step 9
More on the foam, and adjusting the values where it goes into the slight shadow casted from the pier. Also, small color and value nuances are added into the whites.

Step 10
I had left some white canvas where the foam would appear in the foreground water. I’ve painted in those lighter areas in this step. The final details in the wave foam were completed.

Step 11
The sky was dropped in next, plus the beginnings of the small wave in the foreground.

Step 12
The wet sand of the foreground is added. I kept the color intense to give it a feeling of closeness to the viewer.

Step 13
More details were added in the small foreground wave.

Step 14
Fixed the “air holes” and adjusted the edges where the sky and water peek through the pier.

Step 15
Details on the top of the pier were painted in next. The light posts add a nice vertical to break up the sky. The underside of the pier subtleties were finished too.

Step 16
More details in the foreground wave and wet sand. The little dark shadow areas under the wave gave it more dimension.

Step 17
The last of the details were added in the water and this was the final.

Step 18
The final painting and overall scene. If you wish to view this sequence in a slide show click below. Enjoy!


  1. You make it look so easy. Congratulations on the write-up in Plein Air Mag. and your win in Easton!

  2. Really helpful to watch you "work through" the different compositional and palette choices.
    We're looking forward to the fall Plein Air Magazine issue, that features your work. Might have to subscribe, so we don't miss it!
    Best regards to you & your work at the 2011 Festival of the Arts.
    Craig & Michelle

  3. thanks so much for going to the trouble of sharing this

  4. I heard about you today through Leslie and Dreama's AHA radio podcast. This, I think, was the most thorough step-by-step I've ever seen! Thanks for sharing, and I look forward to hearing you on Blogtalk Radio next week!

  5. Great step by step ...and blog! Love your work! Heard about you through Doug Carter and wordering if youd like to share blog listings as well??

  6. It's so great to see your process! You pushed the painting further than what I would have thought and did such an amazing job. Such a beautiful color of water.

    I just finished listening to your interview on AHA radio. Very insightful! Thanks for the inspiration!

  7. Thanks for sharing the process.
    York work shows well on your blog...It's so nice!

  8. Gorgeous painting, really enjoyed and LEARNED from your process, thank you.

  9. Inspiring... Thanks for sharing the steps..