A full day's paint at West Wittering beach

Normally during the week I am restricted to painting in the morning and into lunchtime, but yesterday I was able to stay at West Wittering beach until 4pm, so I managed two paintings. The weather was pretty warm and the sky just cleared as the day went on. I was totally shattered by then end of the day but I produced work I was happy with, so very much worth it!

I set up first between the dunes looking towards National Trust's East Head. The sky was really mean and moody and I liked the deep purply sky contrasting with the light tones of the dunes. The scene was warmed up by the brown-red tones in the foreground, so I felt there was a nice balance. The only thing that put me off was the dunes that would sit in the right hand corner...you can tell I didn't want to paint them from the progress pictures!

 Unusually I did the sky first (I didn't know how quickly it would clear back) and then started to sketch out the bay. The tide was going out as I worked so the amount of blue disappeared quite quickly!

Unusually I did the sky first (I didn't know how quickly it would clear back) and then started to sketch out the bay. The tide was going out as I worked so the amount of blue disappeared quite quickly!

 You can tell I didn't want to paint the dunes! I find it so difficult to paint the grasses without them looking contrived!

You can tell I didn't want to paint the dunes! I find it so difficult to paint the grasses without them looking contrived!

 'Man and his dog, East Head' | oil on panel | 50x20cm 

'Man and his dog, East Head' | oil on panel | 50x20cm 

Once the grasses were done I wanted to add some figures. I didn't want an overpopulated scene but  a few bodies would bring life to it. I was particularly happy with the man and his dog - loosely captured but enough information there. 

I took a quick coffee break and decided I would stay for painting two. There were three scenes I liked and spent a long time walking between them. I almost painted the car park - it sounds odd but I love looking back up the road to the exit from East Head - there are lots of puddles along the way that reflect the sky and the buildings in the distance are often hazy. Next time! I chose instead to paint a part of Snowhill Creek that I have painted before, although the colours really popped yesterday in the spring light. 

 About 15 minutes in - the clouds were moving quickly so once I decided where the horizon line was going to sit on the board, I worked on the sky. In hindsight I might have pushed the horizon lower to accommodate more sky and less foreground, but I don't think the composition suffered. I could also have gone for a smaller board...

About 15 minutes in - the clouds were moving quickly so once I decided where the horizon line was going to sit on the board, I worked on the sky. In hindsight I might have pushed the horizon lower to accommodate more sky and less foreground, but I don't think the composition suffered. I could also have gone for a smaller board...

I found this painting really hard work. The scene was breath-taking and completely saturated with colour and I wanted to do it justice and capture the tones accurately. I tweaked colours continuously because I wasn't happy with the initial mix, and I think when a painting becomes a struggle like this, it taints it for me and I can't tell whether it has worked or not. I pushed on to get it finished before the light started to drop and decided to review it with fresh eyes in the morning. I like it more today luckily!

 'March afternoon, Snowhill Creek' | oil on panel | 10x16"

'March afternoon, Snowhill Creek' | oil on panel | 10x16"