REACHING THE SEA original oil painting by Terrill Welch

I never really know where a painting will take me. We start together from a humble beginning

and begin to build on those first foundations towards synergistic vision.

I find it is easy to get lost on a large canvas such as this 30 X 40 inch piece — lost in both structure and colour. I put paint markers like mental blazes in place to be able to stay on course. This is a larger colour palette than I usually select. But the painting seemed to be requesting it, so I went along.

Gradually the light and shadow references begin to take shape.

Good! Everything is still nice and loose. Unfortunately, I need to leave it for a few days. I enjoy a couple of details in the underpainting

that I know will eventually disappear.

Days pass and I walk by the painting pondering and anticipating my next chance to settle in for a good long stretch working my brush across its canvas. The time finally comes. I spend the day happily trying to “reach the sea.” But something is off. The painting is struggling and seems to be twisting on the canvas. What is it?

Hum! There that is what it is! Painting seascapes is a little like being a carpenter – measure the horizon line twice and paint once. I was down by half an inch to the left. I will let you in on a little secret. This “down a little on the left” is common for me both in painting and in my photographs. For whatever reason, I will pull down to the left. I am left-handed and see better out of my left eye so this might be part of the issue. But leveling takes care of these things nicely. How many times to I paint the horizon line in a seascape? Many. It is critical to getting the distance or depth in the paint and getting it to “settle” on the canvas. Time to pause for a moment.

There are a few challenging and unusual elements to this painting. First, the focal point is the lower top right third. Most often, we expect the composition to work from details in the foreground to less in the background. This painting is forcing the viewer’s eye past the foreground towards the reflections near the end of the reef. Hence the name of the work “REACHING THE SEA.”  Secondly, the sun is in front of us reflecting on the water creating deep shadows and light patterns that are more difficult for me to represent by having my brush following the light. It is a painting that is moving towards the viewer and demands, not asks, that the viewer meet it two-thirds of the way into the frame. That was the painting’s idea. I am usually much more polite.

We are almost there…

The painting has never really tightened up and the layers have built themselves in the generous way of land and sea in perpetual transformation. I have heard many times that green is one of the most difficult colours to mix. The green of seaweed. The brown of sandstone. The diverse blues of the sea. The brightness of the facing the midday sun. The deep shadows of the shoreline. Thank heavens for the light, softness of the sky! … I see a few wayward brushstrokes, maybe a little lighter over here and yes, a little darker over there. Done!

REACHING THE SEA 30 x 40 original oil painting by Terrill Welch

As usual, I need to paint the edges yet before putting it on the market. But very soon. I will just need to make a day of it do nothing but paint edges!


SPROUT: What unusual adventures has your creativity taken you on lately? 


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Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

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20 thoughts on “REACHING THE SEA original oil painting by Terrill Welch

  1. I always enjoy your posts. Your critiques, explanations and solutions offer a window into the artist’s mind and viewpoints. A great education for non-artists like me!

  2. Terrill – I so admire the inside of your head and heart.

    In looking at the third photograph, we get to have a pretty good look at some of the external tools of your craft. I know full well that given the identical tools to work with, I wouldn’t be able to hold a candle to your finished product. Not because of the externals, but because of the internal differences.

    You’ve got it goin’ on, girl!

    • Just an ample sized stretched canvas, a few paints and brushes and we are ready to rock Laurie! But you are right I think a painting comes to life due to the internal engagement of the artists. Otherwise it remains simply paint on canvas. The practice of writing these processes captures fresh what is internal to me at that time. As you know, it is a bit different with each piece – just like any relationship is unique. I image you might find this with writing as well, yes?

    • And I always appreciate your company Maureen. Being a painter working alone is a studio is a solo process – these post make it a communal experience even if it is only in the telling after the painting is complete. Somehow it feels like a way of staying honest to the work.

  3. You spin some very powerful magic, Terrill. Thanks to my muse, yesterday, I travelled to a very special place. Intrigued? I can’t help serving one clue after another as I retrace this adventure for you on my blog. Please join me Thursday for the first clue.

  4. I love seeing the process and the beautifully descriptive words you put together to share it. I write and photograph but am dabbing a bit in other things……to paint would be a dream. Lovely post, again 🙂

    • Thank you winsomebella… Psst! You can make that dream come true… go buy a starter set of paints, a canvas and a couple of brushes. Note: oils are easier than waters and way more forgiving than acrylic – at least when I am using them. I use water miscible oil paints as they clean and can be thinned with water. They are a little stiffer than regular oils but I still like not having to use spirits. But any of kind paint will do… it is so much fun! Good luck!

  5. Terrill…Thank you for visiting my blog. I was out-of-town for work, and I’m terribly behind reading and responding to comments…my apologies. I’m glad I came over on this post though. As many others commented, it’s fascinating to hear you describe your process.

  6. I’m assuming this is ‘watercolor pastel’ no? If I’m wrong I’m not surprised, as I don’t exactly have the technical aspects down pat. But there is definitely a dream-like quality in these soft, merging colors with a ravishing kinship of blue and green.

    I just started a stint as an after-school instructor for math deficient students. The problem is I really have no connection to the subject and haven’t taught it (in any capacity) for nearly 20 years. If creativity is need, THIS is the time! Ha!

    • Sam you are the first to mention this ‘waterclor pastel’ feel of this work. But no it is oil. However, it reminds me of my previous work in watercolors. It is a bit of an odd painting and may not stand the test of time but for now it is complete. I shall paint the edges and then decide if it goes on the market or stays with me in the studio for the time being. And Sam – good luck with the Math class! 🙂

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