Portscatho Sky

Portscatho sky

Sea and sky at Portscatho, Cornwall

Click on the picture for a larger image.
Click here for a related skyscape done in Charmouth, Dorset the same summer.
Oil on canvas, 15x11 inches (38x28cm), Martin Dace 2001. Unframed UKŁ280.00 excluding shipping.

Although the weather was generally warm during August there were some overcast days, like this one. There was not much wind, as you can see looking at the sea. I set up a portable easel on the beach and started with a thin light red (red earth) underpainting or imprimatura as it is called, thinking that this would add warmth to what could otherwise become a very cold looking painting. I used burnt umber, cerulean blue, unbleached titanium white, and yellow ochre, and for the final touches, pure titanium white .

I found that clouds move much faster than I had imagined, so my initial attempts to sketch in the main composition (which I did with very dilute colour) were no use. I tried an all over approach, but was unable to make this work for the same reason. At a certain point I got a piece of tissue and wiped over the painting, ending up with a cool brown imprimatura which had a nice 18th century feel and looked much more promising to paint on. I then started with the most interesting cloud and worked outwards from there. I still tried to keep the composition as a unity by using a very large brush to establish the main tonal areas.

As the light on the sea changed I painted over what I had done before, and likewise with some of the cloud areas. This reworking and changing gives a painting a depth of interest that it perhaps would not have if one got it exactly right first time. A painting is the record of a struggle.

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