In working on my series of paintings of birds that are seen along our North Atlantic seashore, I decided to try painting aspects of the sea that I find quite challenging. For my painting “Yellowlegs”, I decided to set up my subject with calm sea in early morning light, the backlit yellow-orange glow of early morning sunlight. The composition is quite unusual, in that the picture seems as though it should be off balance with the solid mass of rock on the right side. But the bird is looking toward the left side, and the heavy right side helps to give contrast to promote the light shimmering effect of the water on the left. So, in a different sort of way, this unusual composition seems to work.
The water in the painting reflects the early morning sun and so the sea is predominantly the pale yellow-orange of this reflection. If we look closer at the water, we can see that the gentle ripples change colour in a subtle way, reflecting on the near side of the ripple the pale blue sky overhead. And as we come toward the foreground, parts of the ripple will actually give you a slim glimpse into the water, which you see as the slightly darker greenish-blue.
On the bird itself, note the glow of the rising sun on the side of the bird facing the sun. The shaded side of the bird is a hue that is, of course, opposite.
Rocks also reflect the yellow-orange glow of early morning light and because of the low angle of the sun, the shade on the near side of the rock is much deeper.
Reflection in the water in front of the rock is interesting. The water reflects the colour of the rock and in the foreground you see into the water more, which in the shade of the rock is very dark. And there are slivers of reflection of the pale blue sky overhead.
All in all, this painting “Yellowlegs” challenged me to think a lot about how this very clearly directional light would behave on water and off rocks.