Saturday, September 24, 2011

A seascape lesson, from Charles Vickery

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.


Tom said...

I like the "anatomy" of the sea posts Stape. Do you think you could do little line drawing of the anatomy to hit dummies like me over the head. Thanks for the great posts.

Charlevoix Sax Quartet said...

Please re-post your link to the gallery (at the bottom of your current article). It didn't work.

I agree with Tom: please do a line drawing of waves for us. Thanks!

Stapleton Kearns said...

Charlevoix Sax Quartet
Gee, it works for me, here is the URL.

JonInFrance said...

Really ernjoyed my visit to the Tutwiler's blog, thanks, Stape! (I just love a good train painting)

colleen said...

thanks for the link. I've heard you tell of the triangle thing before, and it is easily observed out there but I wonder did he ever say WHY they had that shape , I mean the hydraulics involved?

Fay Terry said...

I enjoyed seeing the Tutwilers' paintings and even though I am not a Star Wars fan, I think the paintings they did for the Star Wars book are quite impressive. Oh, and thanks for explaining the anatomy of waves.That was a good lesson.

Robert J. Simone said...

I am chuckling mightily about the unattractive surfers you find at the shore! That must be because you are to far north. Down here in sunny Florida the surfers are mostly very attractive, especially the ones in bikinis, and they do their surfing at the "beach" not the "shore". "Shore" must be a Yankee thing.

Good post!

lisa willits said...

Thanks for these informative seascape posts and for the link to the Charles Vickery paintings as well. Another seascape I love is The Wave by Alexander Harrison at PAFA. Here is the link
My question is what colors/techniques did these painters use to get such a luminous representation of the sea?

barbara b. land of boz said...

Great post Stape....Ditto on Lisas question about how they obtaianed such an luminous look to the water?
Thank you for your time that you spend on this blog.

barbara b. land of boz said...


Diana Probst said...

I recently read this, shortly before painting a quick study of a nude, and it was amazing how I picked out the mirrored surfaces on the skin and how the different degrees of reflection moved. It's the same as that picture you posted a long time back of the column divided into vertical areas of shade and light.

Thank you for taking the time to post this. It is pulling my work together, and every time I read I find something to improve in my work*.

*Not that my work is bad, it's just imperfect. I'm not eight feet tall and bulletproof like you are, Stape.