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Ellen and I took not one, but two beach vacations this past summer. We wanted to try to extend the somewhat short summers in New Hampshire, so we took one vacation in June (to Sanibel Island, FL) and the other in September (to Hilton Head Island, SC). My sketchbook during this stretch of time gets somewhat repetitive.

Beach 1: Sanibel Island is the self-proclaimed shell capital of the world. This scene captures “our” beachfront. We loved the constantly changing shade of the ocean (from deep blue to aquamarine, depending on the sky), the tall grasses that made us feel enclosed, and the stunning variety of seashells wherever we stepped. I’ve tried to capture all of these in this painting (including Ellen floating with her sun hat out in the ocean).


I quickly pulled out my sketchbook when a gull or tern of some sort (Ellen thinks it was a white ibis or snowy egret) perched itself on the fisherman’s bucket looking for an easy dinner.


Later that day I turned to my left and captured the scene up the beach. There was a storm coming in and I quickly sketched this before the wind and rain cleared the beach. There is a large patch of tall grass in the foreground on a little hill, rendering all of the figures in the distance much smaller. I never got around to painting this sketch.


Beach 2: Hilton Head is mostly known for its golf, but it has lovely beaches, as well. The beginning of our vacation was over Labor Day weekend. I had to work for most of the weekend (grrr….), but on our first day I was able to handle a few phone calls from the beach. Near the end of the day I pulled out my sketchbook to capture these three women:


As often happens, as soon as I started to sketch them they packed up and left, leaving me with only a couple of snapshots in my mind’s eye of what they looked like. I did the rest of the sketch from memory. I tried to capture the darker, shadow underside of the umbrella, as well as its cast shadow on the women. The water at Hilton Head wasn’t nearly as aquamarine as the water at Sanibel Island, and I think that difference shows up well in the color of the water when you compare the two beaches. I finished the painting while hanging out at the quiet (and shaded) pool at our hotel.

I think I’m pretty much done with painting beach scenes for a while. 🙂