Step By Step…

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Starting with Photo Reference

Brebeuf Island is quintessential Georgian Bay – weather-worn rock, erratic boulders and windswept trees. Its lighthouse, which is now a private cottage, was built in 1878 and once stood guard at the entrance to the 30,000 islands.

Unlike the Georgian Bay of today, which is dotted with summer cottages, the island was a place of hardship, loneliness and isolation for the lighthouse keeper and his wife. It was this sense of isolation that sparked my imagination and drew me to the subject matter.

As a first step, I flopped the photo because I wanted the lighthouse to look out onto the Bay.

I then did a preliminary graphite drawing and adjusted the perspective of the light beacon to make it more prominent. I also moved the outer islands back from the Brebeuf shoreline
to create a greater sense of isolation.

Intermediate Stage

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After masking off the lighthouse and the foreground, I laid in the sky with thin washes of Ultramarine and Cobalt Blue. Then I unmasked the lighthouse and applied transparent washes of Phthalo Blue for the water and rock, all the while continuing to add detail with graphite.

Next, I built up different areas with transparent glazes so I could retain some of my underdrawing and graphite shading.

By applying thin washes of Zinc White over the clouds and along the horizon, I was able to create the illusion of atmospheric prospective.

Adding Texture and Detail

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To add texture and detail to the painting and to give it life, I scratched in the highlights for the water, windows and the rivet seams on the beacon with an x-acto knife until I got down to the whites of the gessoed board.

The Finished Painting

Finally, I pushed back the horizon to establish an even more remote feeling and emphasize the harsh, yet beautiful reality of the Bay.

I lightened the sky area with Zinc White to make it recede and seem more believable.

As a final step, I rubbed the whole painting with a soft cloth to give it a sheen. Then I airbrushed it lightly with an acrylic varnish to bring out the water and even out the sheen. 

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Brebeuf Island Lighthouse
Casein on Masonite (24″ x 48″)