Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Oak Island Sketches

"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever."
- Jacques Cousteau

We made our annual pilgrimage to the beach last week, and it was a much needed break from the everyday busyness that's the norm for me. We rented a big, beautiful house just across the street from the beach on Oak Island, NC. The whole gang was there - my sister and her family, my daughter and her fiance, my mother, and Fred and I. Even Buckley and Daisy, the family golden retrievers, came along! Only our son Matt, who lives in Colorado, was missing.

Sketching at the beach is challenging, to say the least. Bright, intense sunshine, high winds, and salt spray all make for less than ideal conditions, but I was determined to practice drawing people, and what better place to do it than at the beach? It's like having a life drawing class going on all day long!

Beach umbrellas, with their bright, cheery primary colors, are a lot of fun to paint, too, along with the soft, tropical colors of the beach houses.

Oak Island is about a half hour south of Wilmington, NC, and we really enjoy the clean, uncrowded beaches and family atmosphere. No boardwalks or ferris wheels here, just the waves rolling in on long stretches of sandy beaches, and lots of time to do nothing.

Here's a shot of the full page in my 8 1/2" x 12" sketchbook, to give you an idea of the size of the individual paintings. I decided to work small to save time and keep detail to a minimum.

These ladies spent hours every day doing what they loved best, soaking up the sun and reading a good book. I loved how they looked, all lined up in a row.

"Total physical and mental inertia are highly agreeable,
much more so than we allow ourselves to imagine.
A beach not only permits such inertia but enforces it,
thus neatly eliminating all problems of guilt.
It is now the only place in our overly active world that does.
 - John Kenneth Galbraith

My models didn't know they were posing for me, so I had to work quickly to capture the scene before someone decided to take a walk or go for a swim.

The water was wonderfully clear and warm all week long. Just perfect!

I'd love to know what books everyone was reading! I plowed through three good novels in the week I was there. At home, it takes me forever to get through a book, since I only have time to read for a half hour or so before I fall asleep at night.

I think it's more fun to draw and paint people who aren't classically beautiful. The lumps and bumps and imperfections usually make for a more interesting sketch.

This one might be my favorite of the sketches I did last week.

This little 4 1/2" x 7 1/2" sketch shows a westward view of the beach at Oak Island.

I painted this sketch on the last evening we were there, right around sunset, enjoying the feeling of the sand, the waves, the wind, and the sunshine all around me. That last day at the beach always seems bittersweet to me - it's been a wonderful time to relax and rejuvenate, but I know that I probably won't see the ocean again for a whole year. That's just the way life is, I guess. We have to seize those happy moments when we can and appreciate them, not bemoan the fact that they don't come every day. But those hours and days I spend at the beach are so special to me.The ocean restores my spirit and speaks to my soul like nothing else can.


  1. Hello,
    It's beautiful ! the drawing is of quality, and the watercolor is very sensibly realized. Bravo!

  2. I love the sketches Leslie! It would also be very interesting to know what books you enjoyed so much! :)

  3. I read the sequel to Deep End of the Ocean, No Time to Wave Goodbye by Jacquelyn Mitchard, and The Walk by Richard Paul Evans, and More Than You Know by Beth Gutcheon. They were all really good!

  4. I love #3, the row of beach-loungers. I hope you have some of these framed!


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