Finding the Rhythm of the Sea in oil on canvas in the art studio

Painting en plein air is wonderful and the easiest way to feel your landscape through the paintbrush and onto the canvas. However, weather and the size of the a work does not always make this the most practical approach. So I photograph my subjects from various perspectives. Then using sometimes years of memory about a subject along with a series of reference images, I am then prepared to work on a specific landscape in my small studio. This canvas is a good size at 20 x 40 inches. Finished paintings and blank canvases are going to have to squeeze in their edges and squish together to make room for this fellow.

ipad studio shot by Terrill Welch March 12  2013

While I am getting the set up and the painting roughed in I thought I would answer a question for you. I am often asked about how I get my ideas for my photographs and paintings. The most honest answer is that the ideas find me as I observe my everyday life. I capture and paint what I notice, what I see, feel, smell and hear. I am influenced by events that are happening in my life. If I am mournful, excited or weary it will show up in what I notice. What is most relevant is my daily practice of noticing. The ideas are always there. My primary task is to notice and to act on what I notice. Today’s work comes from a moment in September a few years ago when the sea rolled itself with eloquent expression onto the shore at Edith Point. Let’s rough it in and see what we have.

in progress Rhythm of the Sea by Terrill Welch ipad studio shot March 12 2013

You may notice that I do not sketch my work onto the canvas. This is something I have never done as I prefer to make some basic marks with paint and then paint up an underpainting to guide me. Sometimes this underpainting is a complementary colour. Other times, such as this one, I stay close to the palette that will become the finished painting.

Much of the scene is in a late afternoon shadow, and the haze is heavy from the smoke of forest fires. The rhythm of the sea and the simplicity of the moment is so strong that my brush seems to know the path by heart. Hours pass with nothing but my humming and the sound of the palette knife mixing paint and the brush applying it to the canvas. The light is past its prime in the studio. I need some distance. Shall we carefully take the wet thing outside and have a look?

Rhythm of the Sea 20 x 40 inch work  in progress oil on canvas by Terrill Welch 2013_03_13 009

It is coming I think, but will have to sit until tomorrow now. My body is stiff and a bit tired from standing and reaching most of the day, but it feels good. I have intimately noticed the rhythm of the sea.

I want to continue to work wet-on-wet or alla prima on this canvas so I begin again the next afternoon and work with the studio lights until very late into the evening. Finally, the painting comes to rest.

Rhythm of the Sea Edith Point resting 20 x 40 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch 2013_03_14 015

Resting is an observable and intuitive state of a painting’s development. It is when the elements of the painting have found their place on the canvas in relationship to each other. Yet, they are still alive with energy and vitality. In this case, the sea is still rolling forward onto the shore. The trees are still tingling from the days sun. The rocks are releasing their summer heat as the water charges across their surface. I am there. You are there. The salt spray is moist on our skin and the rhythm of the sea matches our breath, our heartbeat, and answers a call to all that is knowable.

The resting period is also a time to critically view the painting with fresh eyes. Is there anything odd or irritating that can be corrected? Is there anything that can  strengthen the expression of the piece? Does the painting work? Is it finished? This process of evaluation can happen in a minute or it may take weeks. For this painting I left it for seven days while I was away. I came home and looked at it and decided it is done, finished. A final photograph is required and then it will be released over at Terrill Welch Artist later in the week.

First, I must get a new show ready to hang at the Green House Restaurant here on Mayne Island. Here is a short video from my home studio sharing sneak preview of the 18 paintings that will be shown…

Well, that is it for a week in the life of this artist.

What does a week in the life of your creativity include?

I so much look forward to hearing from you.

© 2013 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

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

Creative Potager – Visit with painter and photographer Terrill Welch

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

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