The painting is really taking shape now and I am thinking of the foreground strategy. Except for the small wave closest to shore, the sky, clouds and featured wave are complete. Note the light shining on the right and how it catches white water and sand. This is a ton of fun and where painting becomes addicting. You really have to live that moment to get the hues and values correct. It takes observation and imagination.
The foreground strategy also becomes a time of fear...I have to paint over so much of what I have painstakingly committed time to. But it can't be helped. The background has to bleed through the foreground to give the painting dimension.
The painting is beginning to take shape, but what I am really doing is "laying down the bones" of the principal image and sometimes, this takes hours to get right. Early on, I had a fascination with geometry, architecture and for some years, I was a draftsman. This experience is massively beneficial to my painting. The perspective here is looking straight on, hence the water, from the wave's trough to the shore, has to project depth of field. When you are dealing with moving water...this takes knowledge born through years of "surf checks" and it is hard to get right. Take note of the sand "bleeding through" the water near the shore. I confess...most of my works are studies in geometry. The cylinder of the tube, the swirls of the water and the billowing of clouds...basic stuff learned early on. Pure geometry.
Initially, I sketch the painting on the surface. In this case, I used canvas. Like most studio work, I paint from far to near, so the sky and light reference becomes the priority. I am looking north just after dawn, so the sunlight is to the east (right) leaving the left side of the painting to take darker values.
I also start the initial layering of the clouds using colors that will factor when applying later layers. Painting in gray scale or red as an undercoat is basic to glazing technique. While some artist complete the painting in gray scale/red, I use varnish and flow mediums at this time, initiating depth in the paint.
There is a saying "fear of the empty canvas" that I believe in. The objective, once the sky is going in the right direction, is to lay down the under coat supporting the final painting. For this painting, I used red and amber hues as the end result would be enhanced. However, I just as often paint a gray scale monochromatic underpainting.
I have also painted clouds that are still catching the early sunlight. The darker colored clouds are for rain, or for white clouds I'll paint later.
The bones are complete and the real painting can now begin. At this stage, I am glazing colors such as the viridian (that tropical green we crave) and other colors that work with glazing. Not all colors do, so timing and the application of highlights has to be managed. Also, painting from afar to front takes absolute discipline. I want to paint the beach and the trees, but first, the water and the wave need to be complete. Still, I could not help myself, I went ahead and painted the sand dunes. These are 'bones" at this time, but I needed to get the color right, and importantly, the morning sun shining from the east. Note the wave's foam is still dark blue and in general, the highlights are incomplete.
Rain Squall At Dawn
Technique in Stan Chew's words...
I get asked about my approach to painting frequently. Stylistically, I am a studio painter who paints Seascapes and Landscapes with a combination of oil and varnish/flow medium. This old world masters' technique is commonly referred to as Glazing.
Glazing is an ancient technique that in large part grew out of necessity by early painters. Essentially, certain paints mixed with varnish then applied in layers was found to have a visually striking effect. It also compensated for a lack of pigments available at that time. For today's artist, glazing offers opportunities to combine realism with romance. Early morning sunlight bleeding through the back of a wave face or the reef bleeding through the water below the surface of the water are visually accurate, and to the viewer, exciting. Glazing enables this expression.
In considering a painting, the painting surface, be it canvas, masonite board with clay or gesso surfaces, all factor into the outcome. I use all three, but if I want something tack sharp, clay surfaces boards work best.
I documented a recent painting in phases in order to show the technique.
The foreground "bones" go in, using bright red paint. The scarlet is crucial to the glazing of green over it and creates depth in the paint color and image. This is the scary part, to get the geometry of the trees and ground covering correct...you can't blow it now!
Painting in a foreground really creates that 3-D look. To me, it is my years of living in the tropics coming to life and while I am painting this, I am living it.
I did go back and adjust some of the shades of the clouds as they conflicted with the wave's foam. The similarity in values was diminishing the drama and depth, so it needed fixing. Minor, but important stuff.
The painting is done and another commission is signed and now, hanging on the wall in the collector's house. I hope they love it as much as I did painting it.
The final application of the paint for the trees and ground covering jumps out due to the scarlet undercoat. The sand under the near shore is very subtle, but it works. I pulled shade lines out of the grass - again subtle, but meaningful to the viewer as it enhances the light's direction. It's dawn.
Most importantly, I have stood at this spot
in Panama many times at dawn, getting ready to go out surfing only to be stilled while watching in awe as a set wave comes flawlessly through, seeing a rain squall far off on the horizon.
This painting took about 40 hours to complete...and I was "there" for all 40 of those hours...stoked.