52 seascape reflections: week 5

Stroll along the shores with me for number 5 of 52 weekly walks through my seascape paintings. This week we meet some feathered friends on the beach and pick up some art tips along the way. 

Swimming with penguins

Swimming with these cute characters is one of the joys of life in Cape Town. If you're visiting the Western Cape, there are African penguin colonies at Boulders Beach in Simonstown and a little further afield in Betty's Bay. Worth a visit.

Penguins were my brother's favourite when we were growing up. That's why they have a sentimental spot in my painting repertoire. Plus, a penguin or two is a great way to add some vertical visual interest to the typically horizontal composition of a seascape. It's definitely more fun adding penguins than rocks. And who doesn't aah at penguins?

 Painting of two penguins on beach

The inspiration 

This series of penguins is based on a photograph I took at Boulders (yes, on a beach outing with big brother). You may have noticed that I often revisit the same subject in my work. While in my academic life self-plagiarism is taboo, it's something I embrace whole-heartedly in my art life.

I find that I learn and develop more if I revisit a subject, especially if I try different approaches. I used to judge myself for this, thinking it a sign of an impoverished imagination to paint something more than once. Now it's a core part of my artistic growth because it increasingly encourages me to experiment and deepen my practice. (Would love to hear from other artists who do this too. Pop a comment at the end, if this is you.)

Tip for new artists: revisit the same subject more than once if it appeals to you, you're bound to learn something new.

Painting of two penguins on beach in portrait format

The first two acrylics

I don't recall the order in which the first two penguin on paper creations emerged. I do remember that I enjoyed painting the first so much that I did another. And, to make them different, I changed orientation so there's a portrait and a landscape composition. The portrait one (I think) has already found its forever home. The landscape one is in hiding. I was going to make it live on my website for you but it's not where it's supposed to be. Hmm. Did I sell it and forget or is it going to turn up?

These two are both acrylic on paper. They were created in 2018 when I first started trying my hand at acrylic. I'd acquired much more creative momentum and began experimenting in acrylic so that I could churn out more without needing more drying space in my tiny house.

Tip for new artists: if you're short of space, acrylic can be a good option because it dries quickly.

Square card with penguin drawing

The drawing 

From the paintings, I'd realised that penguins have a distinctive silhouette and there's a great potential for the interplay between positive and negative form. I decided to test this out with a card. In truth, there were a few card variations after this one. Plus, a felt penguin silhouette on a festive gift tag.

Textured painting of penguins on beach with surface of layering rings

The textured painting 

This one is from my "little pouffes of joy" series. Using tiny tubes, I layer and layer and layer circles of paint. Cumulatively, and through careful placement of colours, I manage to build up a composition with recogniseable forms. It takes time and patience.

The approach works best (imo) with dancers and flowers (check out the ones in my flora collection). But I like the energy of the water in this seascape. It works because the penguins add contrast to the composition. It might be a bit samey without them.

Tip for new artists: good paintings typically have a centre of visual interest, something that stands out and catches the eye.

Watercolour painting of penguins on beach

The ink and watercolour 

The ink and watercolour version is probably my favourite from this series. At the time, I wanted to experiment with masking fluid. So the penguin face and belly and the crests of the waves presented an ideal opportunity to play.

Tip for new artists: masking fluid dries and solidifies in the jar once opened so you need to use it up quickly. It's not the sort of art product that you can hoard for a rainy day. 

More recently, I've had some fun looking at framing options for this one. A black frame would be the obvious choice. But having tested out some samples at Artworks, I recommend something a little more earthy with just a hint of black.

 Detail of penguin painting and framing choices

The watercolour and textured painting in this blog post 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 next seascape instalment.

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