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Painter Sharon McGauley recalls days and nights spent on Cape Cod’s beaches as inspirational experiences that have defined her contemporary paintings. Intrigued by the intersection of sea, sky, and land, McGauley translates her experiences into uniquely evocative oil paintings that have won numerous awards and landed her work in collections around the world.

 “I think most of my paintings come from the feeling of solitude—of being in a beautiful place,” the painter explains. Her recent work focuses on groups of beachgoers exploring the tidal flats in a range of lighting. “The more dramatic the scenery,” she says, “the more I like it.”

With a floating, serene, atmospheric aura, McGauley’s works often capture nature at its most mysterious and moody—think foggy beaches, stormy skies, and the fading light of a summer’s day.

Choosing simple compositions and harmonious color combinations, McGauley works to find the simplest way to express a subject and the emotional connection she feels toward it. Though McGauley resides in Portland, Maine, she is a frequent visitor to her parents’ Cape home in Orleans. She is represented by the Addison Art gallery in Orleans.

The oil painter’s exploration of figures on tidal flats follows her long love affair with the ocean. Just out of college, she taught marine science to children in the Florida Keys, while developing her artistic talents. Buoyed by a supportive artistic community, and inspired by the expansive sky ever present in Florida, McGauley began to sell her paintings and pursue her career as an artist. She spent time in the islands of Hawaii, a place she always wanted to live, to further refine her artistic focus. “I’ve hopped around, but have always been in proximity to the ocean, beautiful places, and open skies,” the painter says.

Excitement about her subject matter is a must for McGauley. “I want to express my feelings in the simplest way possible,” she says. While she relies on her memory to imbue her paintings with feeling, she takes photographs as reference material. She uses her camera’s settings to capture the subject in interesting and different ways. Then, at her easel, she combines her observations, memories, and experiences.

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The inclusion of figures in her paintings is something new for her, and an avenue she is enjoying exploring. “I want my paintings to have a feeling of being defined by color,” McGauley says. “I love the feeling of being out there in the landscape with nothing else to ground you.”