June 2019: Sidmouth beach in Acrylics by Phil Creek
For follow-up Acrylics Workshop, click HERE
As a long-time friend of OVAS, our accomplished President and SouthWest Arts Academician Phil Creek needs little introduction.
For this demo in acrylics, Phil chose to rework a view looking towards Peak Hill and the Tortoiseshell Rocks.
Phil prefers to work on Ampersand gesso board, and avoids MDF for being possibly carcinogenic [the dust] and also for concerns that it may change colours over time.
As for paints, Phil's style is suited to W&N Galeria since the flow formula goes on quickly and easily and - for acrylic- is relatively slow drying. An important consideration for plein air painting.
Favourites in his palette are Burnt Sienna, Windsor Blue, Cobalt Blue, Cerulean Blue, Cadmium Orange, Black, Titanium White and Raw Umber.
Phil tends to use just three brushes, two flats [1" and 1/2"] and a rigger and recommends sticking with the largest brush for as long as is feasible. This allows for faster work AND a freer feel to the work.
His advice is 'Paint the wood, not the trees!"
He begins by covering the white with a coloured layer, loosely applied and then blocking in the distant cliffs with [at this stage] not too much precision.
For landscape it is very helpful to begin at the top (here adding white and yellow ochre to the blue back layer, forming a first approximation to a clouded sky, with cerulean blue added later) and achieve the correct tone of the more distant scenery.
Referencing the way in which we actually perceive a scene, Phil likes the upper parts, the main subject matter for our attention, to be in sharp focus while the foreground is considerably more loose [allowing for fun with splatter etc!]
Peak Hill is rendered with more care now, using windsor blue/cobalt blue/raw umber, and achieving some good nuanced marks even with the 1" flat. In particular this brush is effective for pulling away from a sharply defined 'found' edge [e.g. the skyline] to a fading 'lost' edge. Equally useful for forming clouds above the skyline.
Next, Phil made a start on the beach foreground [raw umber/black] adding some raw sienna, appropriately for the red-brown Sidmouth cliffs and rocks.This area was squirted with water, forming dribbles, scratched to expose the blue underpaint, speckled with toothbrush spray - of varied coarseness dependent on
the springiness of the brush, tapping of a paint-loaded rigger against the finger, etc.
This can be a bit hit&miss but, if you take photos at different stages and it 'goes wrong' you can always paint over it and try again. One of the many benefits of opaque acrylics.
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Among Phil's own favourite painters are the American realists Andrew Wyeth [Christina's World], Norman Rockwell and Edward Hopper [Gas Station]. In fact he even sought out the locations of those two named paintings. That's dedication!
Although Phil began using his rigger for the finer white surf marks, for the figures he still used the same big 1" flat brush. This requires considerable skill! One tip is that if the figure doesn't stand out against the background, or if it is too 'blocky' you can try painting lightly around the outside of the person - as he ably demonstrated.
Note that the eyes of figures imagined as at the same height as the artist will always be at the same horizontal height in the picture, however far or near they are. (Assuming the figure itself is not higher up the beach or submersed in the sea or whatever). Reflections of people will tend to be lighter in tone than the actual figure.
By the end of the evening, Phil's painting looked pretty well finished, excellently conjuring up the atmosphere of a lightly populated beach towards the end of the afternoon.
Later, back in the studio, Phil would do some more work, including major readjustments to the figures on the beach and finishing with some last extra touches and flourishes.