• In The Studio
  • Feb 24, 2015
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Into the waves

One of the first oil paintings I ever did was an image of waves rolling into the shore (seen here). It took forever to dry since I really didn’t know how to work with oils- in fact I think the set I used had 8 colors and I didn’t use any mediums. My parents loved the painting and of course I gave it to them. Then our neighbor saw it and she wanted it, but obviously my parents weren’t going to part with it. She ended up paying me (maybe $100!) to copy my own painting.

Anyway, ever since then I’ve been wanting to do another water study similar to this. I’ve painted a lot of subjects involving water over the years, but not really the water as the main subject. Over the past couple of years I’ve taken hundreds of photographs of water and waves. From Montauk to Robert Moses, Long Island Sound to the Coast of Maine. I could sit at the edge of the water for hours just studying the constantly changing color, texture and reflections and how it interacts with the coastline. It’s very relaxing, trying to capture just that right moment; a beautiful composition that only exists in my eye for that fraction of a second.

I have finally gotten around to that painting. This is a 16″x36″ canvas, not huge, but bigger than the 11″x14″ I originally did. When I look back at that original surf painting it seems to be more like an underpainting of something I would do now. At the time I thought it was so detailed, but it’s actually pretty rough and the palette is a lot duller. My style has evolved quite a bit, incorporating a lot more detail, more saturated colors and larger scale. With this one I really want to capture the split second of that wave rolling over – every nuance and color, every bubble and grain of sand. It is very therapeutic doing a piece like this. You can immerse yourself in the scene and although the end result will be a realistic image, the subject is very forgiving. It doesn’t have to look like building or car, a dock or a boat, a man or a woman – you get the point. It is simply a study of a split second of time, of nature working creating colors and movement.

What you see above is essentially just the first layer. All of the basic colors have been applied and the drawing has been locked down so that I have reference points for the subsequent details. I don’t know if this type of painting will be as desirable as some of the landmarks or more recognizable places I’ve done, but it has certainly been a joy creating it so far.

Author: Adam D. Smith

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