Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Beach Scenes Are Enhanced by Shadows

Now that we have returned from a refreshing week away, I return to the shadow theme with a few examples of beach scenes.
Reflecting about the importance of shadows in painting (and in any visual experience or art form), I realized how crucial shadows have been in some of my recent beach scenes. Views of the ocean or other large bodies of water and expanses of shoreline can be fairly bare and lacking in obvious shadows. Although such scenes can serve as excellent subjects for serene, minimalist art works, including an object or objects, either natural or built on a beach or dune, creates opportunities for drama in contrast of the lights hitting the objects and the darks of shadow areas.
Particularly at the ocean here in Northeast coastal Florida, the sunlight can be very intense, casting strong, deep shadows. Here are three examples. Each of them has appeared in a previous post or two; clicking on the links will provide more information about them.
In the smallest, 6" x 12" painting, "Away from the Crowd", a bright red beach chair contrasts with the softer natural hues and draws the eye. But try to imagine the exact same scene on an overcast, misty day--or with the sun directly overhead so that the shadow would not extend out. The scene would still be nice, but some movement and interest would be lost. Further, notice the subtle dimensionality in the clouds due to the warmer, brighter light on the sunny side.
In the 12" x 16" vertical, "Dune Shadows", I was most interested in the patterns of the fence and its shadows on the rolling surface of the dune. Again, it seems that the scene would be more static and less interesting without the clear shadow design.
Finally, the 18" x 24" "Spring Breeze" demonstrates the extent to which a bright day at the ocean creates contrasting darks and lights. If the sun were straight overhead, the sand would be more monotonal; the foot bridge would be plainer, and the clouds would again be flatter-looking. Even the sky would have less color variation and less apparent depth.
Question of the day: Do you find yourself drawn to scenes with strong light and shadow contrasts or to quieter views with subtler contrast?


  1. Mary, these are each just so exquisite! In the top photo, The shadows of the fence on the sand is just genius and perfection. Same on the bottom photo with the bridge rail. The subtleties of variation in the sand itself is what gives life to each of these pieces. You are just so good!!

  2. You have made my day, Sherry--thank you for your generous praise. I always appreciate your insightful comments, and the specifics you mention are helpful.

  3. i know almost nothing about art, what i do know is that my eyes always appreciate the exquisite beauty in your paintings. you have a great talent, Mary! thank you for sharing it unselfishly.

  4. Oh Cher, your response really warms my heart this morning; thank you so very much for your generous appreciation! Since I spent most of my life convinced that I was not able to paint or draw, this later-in-life awakening is quite amazing. I am grateful whenever others enjoy what I post, and it is sweet of you to take the time to comment.

  5. I really like and appreciate your thoughts on the shadows. Very important in painting to have the contrasts to build drama. I especially like Spring Breeze. Nice work on all of them. Thanks for the tips.

  6. Thank you for your kind, interesting comments, Jo. Your perspective is always helpful to me.