Beach Sunrise

Today I finished a painting of a sunrise scene from last summer when I stayed at the beach in Nags Head North Carolina. For some reason I was intent on seeing the sunrise while we were there. We saw a number of gorgeous sunsets in the evenings but the sun sets over the sound and the sun rises over the ocean. So I nagged my husband to get up with me one morning and catch the sunrise over the ocean. Why I couldn't go alone is beyond me now; but for some reason, he HAD to come. Unfortunately in my exuberance we were about an hour early, so my romantic vision of togetherness under the morning sun soon turned to sitting on the beach in the dark and listening to Dave grumble and shuffle around, trying to find a spot to lie down and finish his night's sleep. Eventually, however, we were rewarded with a beautiful soft misty sunrise over the clouds. Here is the painting inspired by that morning:

sunrise beach painting by Jennifer Young


I painted this scene with a limited palette (alizarin crimson, cadmium yellow pale, ultramarine blue, and pthalo green, plus white.) This is a scene that called for using a lot of "colored grays". Colors that may even read as "mud" in other paintings, created the soft, barely there light that I was going for. At first I thought I'd have to dip into my arsenal of more vivid colors (like permanent rose and cadmium orange) to get the sunrise effect, but because so much of the painting is muted and soft, my crimson and yellow mixtures really popped. My favorite part of this scene is the way the light skips across the water.

I painted this little study en plein air, and since that time I have been wanting to create something similar, but larger and more dynamic.


I used a very limited palette on this one too, mainly because I was under such limited time constraints and didn't have time to squeeze out a bunch of tube colors. One thing I learned from this little painting is that when painting sun/sky paintings on location you really need to keep your brushes and turpentine clean. You also need to paint extremely fast. Screaming at the changing light doesn't really help, but it may possibly make you feel better.