painting by Frederick Waugh
Twenty or so years ago I had the good fortune to know Charles Vickery (1913-1998). Charles was a very fine seascape painter, the best I have ever known. I think that in his era he was the best living seascape painter, following the death of Waugh. He came into my little gallery and painted a demo seascape at my easel.When he taught a three day workshop at the Rockport Art Association, I took it. Somewhere I have the notes that I took, I have looked for them many times and never been able to find them. I have way too much stuff.
One of the things that he taught was this;
The waves have a triangular or pyramid shape, the form of the wave moves under the "skin" of the water. If you were to throw a paper boat onto the wave it would be lifted but not carried along as the wave moved beneath it. Though the underlying shape of the wave moves forward, the little paper boat remains pretty much in the same place.
Vickery referred to the largest wave forms as PRIMARIES. At sea, these are sometimes called rollers. When we are looking out at surf these rollers are where the whitecaps and then the turning over to surf happens. This is the where the tube shaped "curl" happens that those unattractive surfers ride. Here is where it gets interesting.
The primaries carry on their backs smaller forms called SECONDARIES. You can see them clearly expressed in the Frederick Waugh painting above. They have the same characteristics as the primaries they are just smaller and live on the backs of the primaries.
Sometimes in very extreme conditions there are TERTIALS. The tertials live on the backs of the secondaries. Look at the surf and the waves next time you are at the shore or studying a seascape painting and you will see the primaries and secondaries. Vickery called the study of the moving anatomy of the sea, HYDRAULICS. I always liked that .
The Vickery seascape above is from the Tutwiler gallery, here is a link to a page on their blog showing some ofVickerys paintings. Check out their art while you are there, they are fine painters and I have known them for many years.