What Do You Do When Your Muse Doesn't Inspire?

8 X 10 inch oil painting on canvas panel. 
Titled "Out for a Walk"
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Have you ever worked really hard to get out to a painting spot with all of your gear in tow only to find that there wasn't a lot there in terms of subject matter worth painting? I have, in fact I've had it happen a lot.

A couple of weeks ago I returned from the week-long San Luis Obispo Plein Air Festival. After driving up and getting my canvases stamped for the week, I immediately set out to paint because they were predicting rain during the event. The coordinators of the festival supply all the artists with maps and a list of suggested painting locations. For my first spot I decided to head out to the beach at Montana de Oro. After a 20-minute drive and a long walk to get to the beach with all my painting gear I discovered that there wasn't a lot to paint at that particular patch of beach (see photo below). Instead of hiking back up to the car and wasting more time driving I thought I could put my artistic license to use and try to create a good painting.

In order to create depth in my painting I knew I had to play-up the warm and cool colors more than what I was actually seeing. Most of the sand and cliffs were similar shades of tan. In my painting I made the sand in the foreground much warmer in color than what was actually there. The middle of the sand I cooled off using a little blue and white and then added more for the distant sand. Then, with the cliffs I set up foreground, middle-ground and background points for each, keeping the foreground cliffs much warmer and the background ones cooler. I wanted to differentiate them from the sand so I created a color that had a bit more yellow and then applied the same technique of adding blue and white as they moved back into the distance. You can see that I still added a touch of the warmer cliff color to the background cliffs though because without that color the distant cliffs seemed too separate from the foreground ones.

The mounds of green plants in the foreground added some much needed interest to the sandy expanse of beach. I made sure to reduce their size as they moved back in space to add to the feeling of depth.

With the water I used a slightly greener color in the water closest to me and then made it a lot cooler and lighter in color as it moved off into the distance. Then I added the foam on the waves and darkened the sand where the water had wet it. The sky was gray with a few hazy clouds passing through. To give the cliffs scale and add a focal point I added people on the beach. The red shirt of the person on the right really draws the eye because it is the only spot of red in the painting.

Overall, I am really pleased with this piece because of the challenges I had to overcome to get it to this point and I hope you enjoy it too.

What was your toughest painting challenge?


Anonymous said…
What a lovely piece!!! And such a great job explaining the artistic process and how to make a unworkable scene work. Well done Kim.
martinealison said…
Une toile qui semble vous avoir procurée un certain plaisir... N'est-ce pas souvent dans la difficulté que la jubilation surgit ?
J'aime lire vos différentes explications en ce qui concerne sa progression.
Une belle profondeur et de merveilleuses couleurs.
gros bisous
Good design solution for a not so obvious subject. Thanks for describing in detail what you thought and did.
That is such good advice and I'm a believer in making lemonade out of lemons in a painting sense. I used to get the WORST spot in still life class until I figured out that it didn't matter. I could adjust my vision to create a good painting.
Well done and Well said.

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