Sea and Shore – building up paint

Building up paint on a large canvas, after the underpainting is completed and dry, takes big brushes, time and daring or as my friend Elena Maslova-Levin says in quoting Rainer Maria Rilke – to go through the experience of seeing all the way to the end, to where no one can go any further“. *

But eventually the shapes start to appear and the painting starts to come alive.

The most challenging aspect is to stay in the energy of the original conversation with my subject. I have the painting sketch. I have the reference images and I even have a couple of video clips. But at some point I must let whatever has stuck guide me and just paint. I am at the “just paint” stage.

The only thing that can be done now – it is to simply start…

I make slight adjustments to the composition as I go…

My arm and shoulder begin to feel the strain of reaching. I keep painting!

And painting!

And painting some more.

Now it is time to build on the tensions, the life blood of the place, while adding in the dancing light of this moment with its deep history of conversations between sea and shore. Can I do it? Will the painting soon be breathing on its own?

Well, we shall have to wait and see. We are not there yet… but soon!

What was the last long, exhilarating journey YOU have taken? 

* quote is from the introduction for the catalogue book CONVERSATIONS ON EDGE written and edited by Elena Maslova-Levin for the two artist show with Terrill Welch on Mayne Island during the spring of 2018. The book can be previewed and ordered HERE.

PART 1 “Sea and Shore – A beginning” can be viewed HERE.

Part 3 “Sea and Shore – Strong Finish” can be viewed HERE.

© 2018 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

For gallery and purchase information about Terrill’s photographs and paintings go to

ALONE BY THE SEA original oil painting by Terrill Welch

Don’t even ask what I was supposed to be doing this Friday because whatever it was it isn’t done. Instead, I worked on this new 20 x 20 inch oil on canvas painting that is of East Point on Saturna Island and one of Canada’s newest national parks. I took some artistic license and made the building slightly taller than it is in real live. Other than that the scene would be most recognizable to anyone who had walked out to the end of the point during a low tide and then looked back towards land.

This painting is in answer to a request by an admirer of my paintings. She asked if I could paint something with bright colours and maybe more contrast. We exchanged several posts as I remarked on how my subject – the southwest coast of Canada, is often quiet and the contrasts subtle. But I accepted her request as a challenge and asked that she leave it with me. I have been wanting to paint this particular scene for a while and I thought it would be a perfect with its deep shadows under the bank and in the crevices of the sandstone. It was a good painting problem and I greatly enjoyed saying one of artist Gabriel Boray pieces of painting advice over and over as I worked – exaggerate,  exaggerate exaggerate! This led to a whole other internal dialogue about my propensity to understate. So when all the tensions, struggles and musings had finished playing themselves out on the canvas this is what I am left with. Oh I might play a little with it yet but mostly I think it is ready to be set aside to rest. Enjoy!

UPDATE June 10, 2012: I played with the painting more than just a little based on the following feedback from colleague and artist Lena Levin

In your painting, the building looks a bit like a child drawing. I think it fits, in a way, — in that it kind of conveys your feeling of it sticking out, as though a man has been childishly modifying the nature, which looks mature and much more solid and eternal.

But just in case this look wasn’t intentional and you want to change it, it is due mainly to distortion of perspective (horizontals of the building don’t converge on the horizon line) and, as far as I can see from the photo, the lack of variation in the red of the roof (also probably the fact that two planes of the building are of the same value, as though it’s flat).

I did want the building to enhance that feeling of temporary tension between human habitation and the landscape. However, I also wanted the building to be somewhat believable. So I went back in this morning and made some minor adjustments which then led to a few other changes leaving us with what I hope is now the final painting. The building now looks much more like the actual building on this historic site. My thanks goes out to the Lena for her critical observation.

I also had a nice surprise this week. One of my small paintings “Morning” sold at the Green House Bar and Grill. I hadn’t even had a chance to show it to you yet.  However, I am going to do a separate post showing just the small paintings and will include it with these.

SPROUT: When was the last time you were glad your Friday went sideways?

© 2012 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

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

Purchase photography at

Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

Terrill Welch online Gallery at

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? 


© 2012 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

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

Purchase photography at

Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

Terrill Welch online Gallery at

Salish Sea 3 original oil painting by Terrill Welch

From start to finish a painting often has many pauses. Salish Sea 3 is a prime example as this small 8 X 10 inch seascape oil painting took two weeks from start to finish – mostly “resting.”

I begin as usual by working the underpainting.

In this series of paintings I have been inspired to paint the sky first and work into the picture from this vantage point. This isn’t a usual approach from me but it is what has been happening for the past two paintings. So we will go with it.

Next I start building up the blues.

As I continue to work a context is created for the painting to begin to breathe on its own.

Sorry about the bad photograph. I was having trouble with some glare from the light coming through the window of  the studio. Note to self: holding a painting and photographing it is not a useful strategy to resolve glare.

I begin to find my way into the painting – it is like running your hands over your bedding in the half-light of early dawn. You know where you are but there isn’t enough light to see beyond a few vague familiar shadows.

This is most often the place I pause. There is an excitement that rises from my bones and spreads up to the hairs on top of my head. I watch and wait sometimes only for a moment, sometimes stopping for tea and sometimes stopping until the paint dries. Today it was only long enough for tea. I wanted to work in the waves wet on wet.

Now it is time for a rest. It is a rest that last for nine days. I puzzle and muse. I move the painting around to different locations. I sleep on it. I glower at it. The painting is “okay… I guess” but it doesn’t have the SNAP I would like it to have. Finally, I decide what it is and what I need to do. A couple of small changes really. I will leave you to discover them if you choose. Or you can simply enjoy the finished work.

Salish Sea 3,  8 X 10 inch cotton canvas  original oil painting by Terrill Welch.

This painting will be shown as part of solo summer exhibition opening at the end of June. If you are interested in purchasing in advance of the show please contact me directly via email at tawelch AT shaw DOT ca . The price of this work is $280 Canadian unframed.

As for my other intentions, I started another underpainting but the taxes and tune up for Miss Prissy had to be rescheduled for next week. As my father would say “it’s just the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.”

But this is far too light-hearted as I pause for a moment send light to Japan and all areas experiencing the impact of the 8.9 quake and tsunami. This post was written before I heard the news last night on twitter about an hour after the earthquake off the northeast coast of Japan.

Sprout question: Where might your creativity need a pause?

© 2011 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

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

Purchase photography at

Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada