Painting Ranelagh Beach

 With my music computer out of action, I’ve had to take a break from recording the band album. So over the last few weeks I’ve enjoyed painting this pretty beach in Mt Eliza. 

I drew the lines of the main elements first. Horizon, land on the left, beach. Then worked out where the beach boxes are, roughly drew them in and the houses toward the left. My initial pencil line are quick, just shapes. 

Then I moved on ( pretty quickly) to painting . I started out by blocking in the sky and the sea. I painted the land on the horizon. To give the effect of distance I muted the colours. I enjoy doing this. The dotted houses are Mornington and it leads around to the pier.


Then I moved on to the trees. I began with the point, where the rocks are. I pretty much finished this area and I was happy with it. I like to do that. Every time a small area comes together like that, it spurs me on, gives me energy and confidence  ‘ to sort ‘ the next part. Rather than looking at a whole unfinished painting …


Then I moved from right to left, with a mix of light tan, a muted dark green, burnt umber ultramarine blue and white . I try to get the shapes of the trees underway as I go, by accentuating the shadows and light. Knowing that  I’ll be painting over this two more times ( unlike the land in the distance and the point,  which are finished ). I masked out the top of the beach boxes before I painted the bush, so that colours of the beach boxes stay true.

Then I started with the houses on the mid / left. Mainly ultra marine and burnt umber to create the greys ( I never use black) and , tan and white. 

I then decided I needed another lift so I blocked in the beach boxes in the distance and worked my way all the way right to left.  I drew more detail this time on the beach boxes before I painted them.

no sand

Then I painted the sand colour because I felt the need to work out where I was going tonally with the bush.

sand in

Having all the basic elements in ( bush, sky, sea and beach) , it gave me an idea of where I was headed.  I try to sort of step outside of the fact that I’m doing my best to recreate the scene. It’s fun to squint your eyes, see the painting as shapes and tones working together, seeing what’s working – it’s surprising sometimes when it doesn’t or when it does work….you just roll with it-play, really. 

Then I decided to block in the foreground of the left hand side. Straight away I realised I went too bold too early with the dark shadows in the bush where it meets the beach. Also the walking track was begging to be finished

path rough

So I went in and finished that. 


I then went through and did my second run, painting all the shadows and light on the beach boxes. The same with the bush . Starting to finalise the shapes of the trees, dropping in some highlights of white and poles to give the painting some ( needed) detail , again to spur me on and to make sense of all the greenery. 

I confess to preferring painting the beach and rocks, rather then inland subjects. Perhaps it’s just where I live- the beach , the ocean is my focus. 

I went back to the houses again, gave them there second going over. 


I worked on finishing the  foreground, had to drop back the dark edge, so I could really see what else needs help. Having something so big and bold in the foreground is like looking in a mirror with a bright fluorescent light above it shining in your eyes. You can’t really see until you block it out with your hand. 

Then I worked on the ocean, made it appear more transparent and added some subtle white to suggest very calm small waves. I  put in the boat launching rails, that lead into the water. That will helped with the balance of the picture. 


That gave me an idea of where I’m at. 

ranelagh whole pic AUTO

Ranelagh Beach 48″ x 24″ 1.2m x60cm  (the blue colours are not ‘true’ in this photo)

Sometime this is where I stop. You can go on forever, painting in the studio. I like to stop ‘just short of too far’, if that makes sense. If you want absolute detail, you can always go take a photograph. 

I’m thinking I’ll go with the the blue sky day look for this -the big one- but I’m toying with the idea of more cloud . My initial small studio study has a lot of cloud- it’s almost a cloud study rather than a sea scape. I’m happy with them both. 

88 Ae ranelagh 1

Ranelagh Beach 16″ x 8″ (small)

I like to bring the impressionism of my small plain air sketches into these big paintings when and where I can ( eg the land in the distance). 

ww near ranelagh mt eliz plein

Towards Mornington, Mt Eliza -plein air (30 x 12cm) This was painted while I sat on the rocks to the right of the point in the big painting

 I think the more impressionist parts work well, in contrast to the detailed areas. The human eye seems to focus on one particular spot, while the rest blurs into the peripheral. I try to emulate that with my paintings by mixing the style. Often my clouds and water are very loose, while the man made objects are very detailed- realism , really. 

Each time I paint, I go in with a sense of exploration and anticipation. The paint leads the way, really. The way the colours blend and come off the brush. In the end quite often it’s a mystery what makes some paintings work better than others. It doesn’t pay to get overly attached to the outcome. It can be a bit up and down. Also, everyone’s got an opinion on what’s good and what isn’t. You roll with it and enjoy the process.

life of artist 2

I’m pretty much self taught, but in saying that, of course you’ve got to acknowledge your teachers have been there all along the way. I did do some technical drawing ( drafting) at high school, which has really helped me.  I did art at school too, but I was already down my own path creatively. (I was young, couldn’t see the benefit of emulating the masters at the time- easy to see it would have been beneficial , on reflection). I had an amazing year in Wyoming, USA , as an exchange student. My art teacher there had faith in me. After a few weeks spent attempting very quick pine trees ( small, watercolour ) he sent me home for the weekend to ‘paint big’ and I did. The result surprised me, gave me confidence… but this is another post.. 

Thanks for having a read.

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