Beach painting:‘Happiness Is A Shingle Shore’
This beach painting, in oil on canvas panel, is small, filled with vivid blues and sparkles with light.
This landscape art was inspired by a wonderful day at the seaside. It was the end of a lovely week spent exploring the South Hams coast, Devon, UK.
I was there collecting sketched reference material for paintings and prints. I'd never been to Devon before, and had read that Blackpool Sands was in fact a shingle beach, despite being called ‘sands’. My curiosity was peaked, and it went on my list of Devon sights to check‑out.
Blackpool Sands looks out over Start Bay on the road from Dartmouth to Torcross and Slapton Ley. I'd visited all these locations and was overwhelmed with inspiration for paintings and prints by the time I stopped at this bay.
I couldn't remember having been on a beach made entirely of pebbles of all sizes, and was not sure it would be ‘up-to-much’. This was why I'd left it until near the end of my visit. How wrong can someone be!
Blackpool Sands did not disappoint at all. On a glorious sunny day in April, I discovered the delights of this bay on the Devon coast, just below the beautiful town of Dartmouth.
original studio oil painting
- Artwork Size: 25.4 x 25.4 cm (10 x 10 ins)
- Medium: oil
- Ground: canvas panel
Hardly anyone else was there, and the day was intensely clear and bright. The Spring sunshine was dazzling and warm, the blue sky was vivid, and the sparkle on the gently lapping sea danced.
After exploring the shore, sketching ideas for beach paintings, I picked a spot and sat to review my notes in my sketchbook.
I paused and gazed out to the ocean. The sound of the sea softly shuffling the shingle, the intensity of the blue, and the perfect arrangement of little clouds in the bay stunned me into a moment of reverie.
This wonderful big, blue planet, in all its sublime beauty, lay before me. A priceless 'good‑to‑be‑alive' moment, as you'll know if you've been ‘there’ too.
How I painted this painting
Back in my studio, I chose to use a small canvas board for this artwork. I intended to make a bigger painting ultimately, but felt I needed to try the idea out first.
The finished painting above is so strong, with so much merit, that I'm reluctant to try to better it with a bigger painting now. When I can't see how I'd improve on a landscape, I've discovered I'm often unhappy with any further work I make.
I'm always reviewing my art. As I develop as an artist, my opinions of completed paintings change. So having looked at this little gem of a painting and decided I can't see what needs attention, that might change. If it does, I'll make a larger version. So far though, this beach painting has stood the test many times.
The painting challenges
The main challenge was getting the 'big blue planet' feeling into the artwork. Making the painting on a bigger canvas would not have helped.
It was only going to be achieved with bold use of composition and perspective. I tried out a lot of thumbnail sketches before going ahead with the artwork. Even then, I wasn't sure I'd chosen correctly, and this is why I picked out a small canvas board.
The intensity of the light, and yet the softness of the April day, were also on my mind while I mixed and applied the oils.
I love a good challenge – it's why I make art – and the contradiction of sharp intensity versus a Spring softness was what put this painting at the top of my to‑list.
That and the fact it had been such a sublime experience I'll never forget. Ah, Devon, how I wish to see you again.