Seascapes 52: week 10

Wow, it's my 10th Seascapes 52! Marking the occasion by sharing a nostalgic trip back in time to one of my favourite coastlines. Join me for a mix of travel inspiration and art techniques as we visit the Eastern Cape.

Welcome to the Eastern Cape

As a Cape Town gal, when I went to university in a landlocked Eastern Cape town, I thought I was going to miss the sea. What I didn't realise was that the Eastern Cape coastline has some of the most gorgeous sandy beaches. They stretch into the distance, occasionally interrupted by river mouths, so are ideal for long walks. They also have lovely dunes (with a bit of dune forest too). 

As an eager undergraduate, I joined the uni hiking club and set off on a dune hike to Dias cross (erected by or in memory of the Portuguese explorer). Sand dunes are way steeper than you think. Plus, used to being goat-footed on rocky Table Mountain, I wasn't used to ascending on sinking sand. It certainly wasn't the ambling beach stroll I was expecting, but I loved it. 

I ended up living in the Eastern Cape for many years. It has a magic of its own. We have family there too, so before I moved permanently to Britain, it was the ideal road trip destination for Dad and I to do together. The 3 seascapes featured in today's blog are based on that road trip and infused with my love and special memories of some fabulous people with whom I have shared soulful moments in the Eastern Cape.

Seascape painting of beach with sand dune in distance

Kenton-on-Sea: this lovely seascape was painted in 2009 while I was still in South Africa. Yep, it's an oldie. These days it hangs in Dad's living room. 

Seascape with beach and river mouth

Kleinemond: also an oldie, probably painting in either late 2009 or early 2010. Definitely a "homesick" seascape, remembering our lovely road trip after I moved to Britain to begin my PhD. These days it hangs in its forever home in Surrey.

Seascape with sand dunes in distance

Dad's Kenton is a lovely painting but it didn't come out the way I had hoped at the time. In 2020, I decided to revisit this, albeit at a slightly smaller scale. You can see in the image above how my style has evolved. It's become more layered, and there's a hint of my interest in a textured surface emerging.

Hunting for pictures for this blog, actually turned up a few work-in-progress images of this seascape. Useful, because it provides an opportunity to reflect on how my process has changed.

Seascape underpainting on easel

Firstly, look at the bold hues used in the underpainting. My underpainting choices have been a lot more restrained lately. Secondly, the underpainting is really rough and gestural. Definitely could be good to revisit the boldness of colour and form again. 

Seascape painting in progress, early layers

The next process image shows the layered approach. Most of the colours here are still staples on my palette. What's noticeably different here, to how I work these days, is that many of the colours I am placing on the surface are unmixed hues, fresh from the tube. These days, I do a lot more mixing of colours on the palette. Although, I do still enjoy adding highlights of unmixed hues in the top layers. But I definitely do a lot more colour and tonal development these days.

Seascape painting in progress, blended layers

The next image shows how the subsequent layers are much more blended, allowing the underpainting to help determine areas of light and shade. The blending is fairly horizontal. I tended to use a lot of medium, flat brushes. These days, I'm just as likely to blend with my fingers as I am with brushes. 

Kenton-on-sea beach painting

In 2024, I added a few more finishing touches to this seascape. If you've been reading my newsletters and blogs, you'll be aware that I'm revisiting some of my older creations. In this case, I made very few additional tweaks. I wanted to accentuate the sense of depth: both within the breaking waves and the beach receding towards the dunes. So there's some colour adjustments. Most of these were done by only adding a very little bit of paint and using a near-dry brush to blend it. There's a little bit more texture in it too. This creates more movement in the sky, sea and sand.

My intention with this blog series is to deepen my reflection on practice. Putting together this blog has been really useful in reminding me that:

1. Emotional connection to place is important to me (and often I'm painting my connection to people through landscape)

2. It's worthwhile being a bit looser with an underpainting, especially in terms of colour

The 2020/2024 Kenton-on-Sea seascape is available in my Land & Sea collection. The others are privately owned.

Thanks for reading. Join me again next Wednesday to splash out with the 11th Seascapes 52. 

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