Watercolor painting of a wet beach with a sky reflection

Watercolor painting of a beach with a beautiful sky reflection
“Walking on the sky”

What do plein air painters do when it rains? 

No, it’s not a joke but it sounds like one. In my case, stay at home.

However, some artists seem impervious to the weather. One such artist is David Bellamy.

On a youtube video, I saw him paint at sea in a small boat while it was raining and his wash was just sluicing down the paper. And I saw him on top of a mountain in winter painting and there was ice in his washes! 

You can see this for yourself. On youtube just type in David Bellamy Learn to Paint Watercolour Adventures. This video is absolutely hilarious but also inspirational.

What makes them even more comical is that he carries on painting and speaking in a calm gentleman’s voice as if everything is fine while his painting is quickly destroyed by the elements. 

After watching this I’m ashamed to confess that I get upset by a drop of rain on my paper.

I really admire this artist and his seemingly unconquerable spirit. And I love that mild manner. If only I could be so relaxed about it all and not so reactive. I aspire to be like this.

Anyway, last Monday I had planned to go to a place called Ogata and to paint the tulips there. This is my second attempt to go and for the second time I couldn’t. This time it was because of rain. 

Being unable to paint outside is really frustrating for me. It is not simply that the outdoors inspires me more but that it is such a sheer pleasure to the senses and my whole being.

Outdoors I can feel the epic size of the world around me. Indoors I have a studio about the size of a big wardrobe. It makes a difference. 

Outdoors I paint real things. There is a feeling of intimacy and immediacy. Indoors I paint from another painting or a digital image.

However, the one advantage of painting indoors is that you can really experiment. And one of the experiments I do in the studio is to paint over old paintings that are failures. 

Because these paintings have no value, I don’t have to be careful and am free to try everything and anything.

The painting above is one such example.

Here I painted over another painting of a sea scene. In the original painting a big part of the picture was the sky. You can’t see the whole picture because I cut it off. But you can see the top of some cumulus clouds at the bottom of the paper. 

I changed the background into a beach scene simply by adding a thin line of blue for the sea and, with a big dry brush, a band of green for some headland.

Then I added a few figures and gave them soft reflections.

I was delighted with the result.

This idea of turning a sky scene into a beach scene came by accident though on a previous occasion.

I was indoors and just doodling over old paintings. 

Anyway, I was practicing painting figures over a failed painting and I was painting the figures over the sky part of the original painting. And I really liked how powerful the figures looked against this unintentional sky background. 

And then I had the idea at some point that I could turn this into a beach scene with the sky being reflected in the beach.

And today, I tried out that idea and am very happy with the result. 

I think this is a very powerful image because the figures are like crosshairs on a rifle with the beach creating a strong horizontal line and the figures with their shadows creating a strong vertical line. 

These crosshair-like figures attract the attention of the eye and thus act as a focus point.

Then I had another go at painting this scene. But this time on a new pristine sheet of paper.

Watercolor painting of a beach with a sky reflection
“Soft beach reflection”

I’m quite happy with the result. 

I love the feeling of spaciousness in this painting, especially as this is something my paintings rarely have. That said, it might be a little too spacious.

However, I’m not completely happy with it.

I think that compared to the original painting the sky looks weak. In the original painting, the sky is very powerful. I probably needed to use more pigment. So I will have another go in the near future.


This story was originally written in April of 2014. I’m editing this story in April of 2021. 

Sadly, I didn’t have another attempt at making that sky stronger. I have no idea why.

However, during this year, I did do another painting of a beach with a sky reflection. It’s a very subtle piece but I like it a lot.

Watercolor painting of a beach with a dramatic sky reflection
“Dramatic beach reflection”

I am still very interested in the surface of wet beaches. They are irresistibly intriguing and beautiful.

And at some point, I hope to make a small series upon this subject.