A week ago, after visiting William Bay National Park in Denmark, I was looking at photos of the region on the internet. This is a great way to discover new and interesting places that you might have driven by over the years.

One such place is Lights Beach. While it is in the same national park as the very popular Greens Pool, it is accessed via a different road. The photos I saw made it look inviting from an artist’s point of view so on Friday, with clear skies looking set to hang around, I headed off to Denmark.

Lights Beach didn’t disappoint. It is an amazing place with hazy long-distance vistas, secluded bays, a seasonal creek flowing across the beach, large rocky outcrops and, most importantly, massive waves breaking close to shore.

I took over 450 photos in a couple of hours!

I wanted to do a large painting (60cm x 40cm is large by my standards) that captured the mood of Light Beach but knew it was going to be a challenge. There was so much white foam on the water that, at times, it looked more like a snow-scape. I decided to do a small study to see what problems lay ahead…

step 1, seascape oil painting by andy dolphin

Other than the messy foreground, I quite like stage one, above, as a painting in its own right.

step 2, seascape oil painting by andy dolphin

If this was to be a finished painting at this size, I probably wouldn’t have gone much further than stage two. Just a little tightening in a couple of key areas, like putting some “clear” water back into the peak of the wave, and it would work quite nicely. But the purpose of this exercise was to experiment with ideas and techniques for a larger piece.

Lights Beach, seascape oil painting by andy dolphin
 (Breaker at Lights Beach – sketch. 30×20cm oil on board. © Andy Dolphin)

This is where I ended up. There’s a lot I like about this. The key shadow area cast by the breaking wave is pretty much how I wanted it and the overall composition and tonal values work for me. I did have a bit of an ongoing battle with the large mass of blanket foam through the middle ground, too light, too dark, too light… but some of that battle is more related to the small size of the painting as even small brush strokes were often not small enough.

Here’s a photo of one part of Lights Beach, after an especially large breaker turned the sea to cottage cheese (or whipped cream or shaving foam or something)!

Lights Beach,Denmark. Photo by andy dolphin