The orange one
Join me for the second weekly dip into my seascape paintings. The self-initiated mission is to share 52 sets of reflections on old, new and in-progress creations throughout 2024.
Contemplating the day (with sinking toes) started out as a simple "I fancy painting something bright and orange" whim. Yet, as the painting evolved, it wove together a range of memories and feelings.
Growing up on the slopes of Devil's Peak in Cape Town, my bedroom window looked out across the suburbs and Cape Flats. You couldn't actually see the sea from where I was but you could see the iconic Cape Hangklip that jutted out to sea on the other side of False Bay. There's an echo of this memory in the upper half of the composition with the mountain range in the distance.
On a misty morning, the suburbs would disappear. I liked to imagine I was looking out over the ocean. There were even some palm trees down the road that didn't dissolve into the sea of mist. I have recollection of creating a watercolour of that semi-imaginary seascape when I was probably the grand age of 10.
Contemplating's foreground is rooted in the soulful feeling of sitting on the beach gazing out to sea. Breathing in the ocean air and watching the waves wash away your thoughts as they criss-cross on the shore.
Contemplating was a 2020 painting. Lockdown certainly fuelled my longing for the sea. And the feeling of being unable to travel abroad to visit family meant some Cape Town iconography cropped up in my work subconsciously as a gesture of connection.
Breathe is another seascape creation from this year. The deep blue sky is certainly a nod to Cape Town, although there are no recognisable landmarks. It's one of my favourite seascapes.
The two paintings are different in colour, composition, and angle. Yet, there's continuity in the meditative mood of each seascape. And the palette knife technique used for the crests of the waves is similar.
Orange is a difficult colour. It doesn't mix well. Plus, it's hard to mix a pure orange that isn't more of a red or a dirty yellow. As a graphic designer, I've always known to use a Pantone spot colour when you want a pure zingy orange. CMYK mixed oranges are always slightly muted at best. I applied the same logic to this painting. The vibrancy of this painting is down to investing in a lovely tube of cadmium orange.
Contemplating is a mix of brushwork and palette knife painting. The palette knife crests of the waves were fun to add. I had a lovely iridescent white that had warm undertones that work well with the orange. But I found it challenging to get enough perspective in the rolling waves. I eventually added some red and naples yellow light to accentuate the sense of depth in the waves. And, if I recall correctly, some more cadmium orange on top of that to bring back the zing.
In hindsight, and having thought about the value (oops, colour pun) of underpainting in last week's blog, I think it would be more effective to create dark and light zones with some earthy tones as an underpainting and then layer the brighter orange on top. You'd have to be careful to keep it clean and make sure the underpainting dried just the right amount first. The Winsor & Newton orange I use is opaque, so it should work.
Contemplating the day (with sinking toes) and Breathe are available (at the time of writing) in my Land & sea collection.
Hope you enjoyed the read and will join me again next week for the third seascape instalment.