Painting Process | Morning Moonset, Winter On Ipanema Beach - Harriet Lawless Artist

Painting Process | Morning Moonset, Winter On Ipanema Beach

This is my process from start to finish to create my oil painting "Morning Moonset, Winter On Ipanema Beach"

1. Composition - pencil sketches

I chose the view that I wanted to paint, which was from the end of Ipanema beach looking towards Leblon and the striking Morro Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers Mountain). Using the golden ratio to work out the focal point and horizon line, I tried out a few different arrangements and took some notes on proportion.

This is the composition I settled on, with the two brothers mountain as the focal point.

2. Trial paintings

To make sure the colours and values are correct, I paint small trials from life. For this painting I wanted to experiment with the impressionists' technique of broken colour to create a vibrant sense of light.


I layered cool and warm colours of the same value to create a lively atmosphere and shimmering morning light.

First warm layer en plein air:

Second cool layer en plein air:

Finished piece with 2 layers of both warm and cool, touched up at home:

I will use this as my main reference for the bigger painting, instead of a photo. I learned a lot from these sketches about painting plein air - particularly not to choose a spot to paint with absolutely no shade!

3. Prepping boards for the final piece

It took me a couple of days to find someone in Rio that would cut the boards to the size I needed and was nearby. Once paid for, cut and collected, I needed to prep them. I use PH neutral PVA glue to seal the boards (I did about 6 layers each side!!) and then 3 layers of gesso. Very time consuming, but worth the TLC for my future masterpiece.


4. Painting the final piece


First warm layer:

First cool layer:

Second warm layer:

5. Finished!

The finished piece with the final cool layer:


I added some surfers in the water to give a sense of life and perspective to this early morning scene.



Here is the final texture of the sky with all those layers peeking through! In person it gives the painting a shimmer that changes depending on the angle that you look at it. Exactly what I was after so I'm very happy!

And here's a close-up on the little surfers on the water

I'm thrilled with how this painting has turned out. My aim was to capture that early morning crisp sunlight and to create a vibrating light with broken colour. I think I've achieved both of those aims and I'll be taking this technique with me to develop for future paintings.

The original painting is available to buy here and I have prints available here.

Thanks for reading.




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