The first beach I ever went to was a clean, blue-clear water, white sand beach in Destin, Florida. Great at the time, but in retrospect- a terrible beach for your first-time beach experience. You can’t compare a Galveston beach to Destin. That’s not to say there aren’t some great beaches in Texas and the Gulf, it’s just that you think all beaches are clear water and powdery sand, and then you see a different beach and the wind is taken out of your sails. “The water is … brown? But why?” Ha. Because, it’s the world, man. Grab a Corona and chill your expectations.
Anyway- we’ve been to the beach twice this Summer and had a perfect beach day every time. We don’t go to Galveston, we drive down to Lake Jackson and hit up a beach called Surf Side. If you drive down the beach a little-ways, you’re sure to secure yourself a space with ample room and settle in. This past weekend was particularly lovely because the water was clear and the beach was pretty seaweed free for the most part. To Alex’s disappointment, the crabs seemed to be on holiday. In their place, little tufts of golden seaweed rolled on the waves gently. To Alex, every crab is a potential friend and every menacing warning-swipe of a crab’s open claws is just a friendly wave from a potential life-long pal. It’s gonna take a hard pinch to break him out of this fairy tale.
I have come to love being in places like this just for the exposure and chance to maybe draw something new. Also to get a tan. And let Alex frolic in the waves. Which is curious because he’s upset if pool or bath water gets in his eyes but waves hitting him directly in the face and almost knocking him over are a welcome experience. He’s six, I dunno.
Last beach trip, I took some time to do a little observation sketches. Tyler and Alex were bonding over fishing and “ocean sitting” which gave me some good little sketches. They created a pretty impressive sandcastle also- in my mind it was Storm’s End from game of thrones so I tried to build the massive winding staircase that Jon Snow had to walk up to meet Danearys after his first trip there. Soon, we had an attack-crab for the mote and Alex made a paper American flag from some of my sketch paper. Twas a sound structure.
In this most recent beach trip- I didn’t feel as compelled to sketch any sandcastles or ocean views but rather a far off place in my mind. I’ve been wanting to visit Japan for many years. Now that Alex is old enough, he wants to go to. We watch a lot of NHK at our house. I had a moment of dreaming where I thought up a mountainside Japanese retreat. This fictional place is ancient, beautiful and known for it’s natural mountainside hot springs. I wanted to draw something so beautiful- the kind of place I imagine myself going. And then, as my mind does, I was immediately compelled to ruin it. Hence the little tourists running all over the place.
This was one of those times that I didn’t really know what I was drawing until I was drawing it. Loose lines became less loose lines that eventually formed into actual things. A ledge, a bridge, a pool of water, a cluster of trees. I felt anxiety the whole time worried that I needed a reference or that I would end up in a place that “didn’t make sense” and would end up scrapping my page. I didn’t let myself though, I tried to combat those voices with a “who cares” attitude. It’s hard to force myself into a curious place but it’s often the best place to break through and develop something new or rediscover old techniques and ideas.
Inking is always a scary place for me too- because you can’t erase at this point. You have to trust the little clues you left for yourself in pencil and commit and trust that your hand knows where you need to go. I’m also not really taking this step by step truly- I’m finishing pieces as I go. As of now, I still have large areas that are just pencil but the bottom half of the page is already at watercolor stage.
Here’s how the process is going for me on this one:
pencil > ink lines > layering of prisma pencils > white gel pen for highlights/details > washes of watercolor to add depth
I don’t always do the same process, it depends on the piece really. I know a lot of artists have their set style and method. These artist’s work is recogniseable and follows a similar thought process and workflow every time. There are also other artists that just experiment more than others and start from a total blank mindset every time. Their work is more varied and experimental using a variety of mediums and looks. I’m more of the latter- I’ve always gravitated toward mixed-media, though I do have a few processes on the mental shelf I go to.
Don’t feel like you have to “find a style” or land anywhere in particular to be relevant or to be taken seriously as an artist. I struggled with that belief for many years. Being curious and willing to experiment is proving to be advantageous for me in this stage of life. I’ll be experimenting and trying new things for many years to come because I haven’t tried NEARLY what is out there to try. I spent many years not drawing at all. I just didn’t make time for it and I forgot my passion for it. I’m catching up and rediscovering myself.
This week, I’m spending my lunch breaks in our company café lining, then coloring, then inking, then painting one section at a time. Every section that is finished is satisfying and I’m excited to finish this. This piece is teaching me courage, acceptance, and self-trust.
What’s really exciting is we’re going on our third beach-trip next week: to a beach house! We’re staying in a very cute Airbnb beach house on Crystal beach with another family. Alex will have a few friends to chase crabs with, Tyler will have a fishing buddy and I’ll have a friend to lay out and tan with. What will be really interesting: I’m having a painting and wine night for everyone one of those nights. I’ll be teaching two adults and 3 kids how to paint a simple beach-themed painting. Similar to one of those wine’n’paint places BUT your instructor is super inexperienced and there are kids and a dog running around. You don’t sound impressed. Well, it’s free so. Like I said earlier, grab a corona and chill your expectations.