Capturing the Ocean’s Moods
The artist shares her secrets
The magnetic effect of Jeanne Rosier Smith’s paintings en plein air (French for “in the open air”) is most obvious when she is depicting ocean waves, a famously difficult thing to do. “Artistically, there are a lot of possibilities,” Smith says. “It’s always changing —lighting, the moisture in the air. You can convey all kinds of moods.”
Even for trained artists such as Smith, painting a roiling ocean—its swells, rolls, and foamy edges—requires patience and a fine, nuanced touch.
First, Smith considers what she wants to paint and then locates the right beach setting in the right lighting. After sketching and painting on site and taking hundreds of photographs, she completes a painstaking step-by-step process to achieve the majesty and power of a breaking ocean wave.
This is how she does it
- Create a basic drawing.
- Lay in the underpainting colors in dry pastel. “For this step, I look for the colors underneath the foam and water reflections: the sand and darker water tones,” she says.
- Wash down the first layer of dry pastel with denatured alcohol, effectively turning the dry pigment to paint, to create a toned underpainting on which to build subsequent layers of dry pastel. The underpainting is completed.
- Layer dry pastel, adding color to create the feel of waves, creating depth in the distance and movement in the foreground. The painting is completed. ~ M.G.
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