Wednesday, 14 January 2009


9 x 12 watercolour

The sea can be calm and glassy during the summer, but winter storms create a whole new beast. The power of the ocean can tear away wharves, move boulders that weigh more than cars, wash away roads and change landscapes.

Breakers, due to a storm surge, washed over Flatrock, the small town where I live, and caused 2 million dollars worth of damage one winter day in 2005. Not a day to be standing around watching the storm effects, but some did. This storm in 2007 was similar and you can see the remaining pillars of the wharf being washed over by the waves.

Capturing the movement of breaking waves is challenging as there are so many parts and values in them. Watching the repetitive movement helps fix it in my mind and lets me translate it more easily onto paper. I use a camera to catch the wave's crest and the various movements from a slow build out to sea to the moment it eases its grip on the shore and moves back out to be swallowed into the ocean again.

In this piece I should have used some masking fluid to keep the spray clean, but decided to see if I could work around it. I could go back in and add more spray with gouache or thinned acrylic, or even scratch some out with a knife blade, but for now I'll leave it.


Katherine Tyrrell said...

Wow Jeanette - I've just looked up on Google maps where Flatrock is and I can now see how close you are to the full force of the Atlantic!

You must be almost at the very eastern most tip of the North American continental land mass (you see - the geographer will out!)

What I think is really interesting about your post is the potential to learn about how waves work in order to incorporate that into work - through watching videos of them. It had never occurred to me before that in relation to any dynamic aspect of water, the video could have a major role to play in the learning process.

Obviously we lose detail and it's not the same as being there - however if it's your own video and you were there and you're using it in the same way as your own reference photos then I can see some major learning going on

....all before you get to the bit about learning how best to get it down on paper with paint! :D

Gesa said...

Wow! I am rather envious, despite the storm surges. Yes, that is the kind of stuff that I don't see often enough to make it more familiar.
'Living near the sea and breaking waves for a while' will quickly and firmly make it onto my list of things to do.

Katherine's comment on learning from videos about dynamic processes is an interesting one... hm, yes, I can see how that may work, and perhaps you can take it back into short loops and stills. Hm, will think a little bit further. But all the same, the being there is missing.

I am very much looking forward to your experiments with those breakers, Jeanette.

Oh, I like the variety of our little group. So much inspiration... don't know what to do with it :)

Katherine Tyrrell said...

That's exactly what I was thinking of Gesa.

Even when you're watching waves, sometimes the movement is too fast to be able to work out the underlying dynamics of the wave motion. I know a little bit about it from geography (we learned how waves work and hence why waves have such a destructive force).

With videos you can stop and look or slow down what you're looking at.

There's something about the need to understand it even if you aren't going to represent it in the most realistic way

Plus like I said you can't beat seeing it for real - but if your own videos work like photos when matched with sketches then I have no doubt they have the capacity to take you right back to the place.

I definitely agree with Gesa about the nature of the group - the common interest and the different approaches make it really stimulating!

muddy red shoes said...

You have caught the shape and curl well. I was out yesterday watching waves too, mesmerising, didnt think of the video idea, thats a good one. I love the sounds too, that deep booming of the ocean, and the to get all that into a painting!

Jeanette said...

Yes, I'm pretty much on the edge of the world Katherine! :) Cape Spear, on the other side of St. John's is the most easterly part of North America, but Flatrock's not far behind it.

A study of wave dynamics in video or even still photos could be interesting. I may be able to find out more information that would stop me reinventing the wheel at the Ocean Sciences Centre with the university here. That could be a post in its own right as it sits on the edge of the ocean looking like a spacecraft.

I love being this close to the ocean Gesa. Storms are especially wonderful, the sound of the surf is amazing along with the strong wind and salty spray. Analyzing it to put on paper sometimes gets lost in the moment and I forget why I went there and just enjoy the ocean.

The ocean moves so quickly Sarah, its hard to capture a single moment on paper. For me, watching the ocean over and over helps cement it in my mind. Its the same way that we can all likely draw an apple or orange from memory, pure familiarity with the subject.

Jeanette said...

Oh and if anyone wants to watch the current sea state in Logy Bay, where the Ocean Sciences Centre is, you can look here.

There's also a seal cam around somewhere too as they have some resident seals.

Lindsay said...

You live in such a dynamic, dramatic part of the continent! It always amazes me that water has such awesome power.
Here is a link to a wiki page on wave dynamics. Thanks for an intersting post.

vivien said...

I love the sea when it's wild and stormy :>)

I must send you a link to images (not mine) of 'the great storm' last year - the waves have to be seen to be believed - HUGE.

Jeanette said...

Thanks for the link Lindsay, that's very useful.

Yes, the ocean sure packs a wallop, especially around here. Today the surf is high as the winds are very strong. The sea becomes a distraction for me as I drive past it to work and home again.

Yes, do send the link Vivien. I love stormy seas - from a distance...:)

Trevor Lingard said...

Flippin Eck.
You are braver than me to venture so near to the waves.
Very insperational though.
Hope you had your wellies on !!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Lovely watercdolour Jeanette. I like the way you did the surf, without the masking fluid. I enjoy brushwork musch more.
And your video made me long for the sea..I miss it, especially the hearting part...and smelling...and touching....and tasting the salt in the breeze....aie!
I recently bought a book. Not at all my style of painting or what I like in painting, but what I do appreciate, is all the information on waves and surf and flow of water,the way a wave is formed, its roll, it's break, where and when does it break, open sea wavelets...the physical laws of waves... Maybe you know it already.
"The complete guide to painting water, by Bert N Petri"

Jeanette said...

heheh Trevor, your comment make me smile. No, it wasn't my video, but that of someone else braver than me who ventured that close to the surf!

Thanks Ronell. I agree, that's the best part of the sea, the sound and smell. On foggy mornings when I go out, its the first thing that I smell - that seaweedy tang in the air. Lovely...

That book sounds really useful. I will have to have a look for it, I think it would help a lot in my work with water. Thanks.