Water is all around us in the Lowcountry. Artists long have tried to paint the view of the waves gently lapping a beach or a kayak cutting through peaceful marsh. But sometimes they forget one thing: Painting water is hard.
You might not think about it until the brush is actually touching canvas, but the ability to make water look like water and not a flat blue plane actually requires some skill.
Don't worry: Jay Kenaga is here to help. The Sun City Hilton Head resident is teaching at class at the Beaufort Art Association called "Capturing Water's Mystery." Using water-mixable oils (which avoid the use of turpentine), the three-part class explores everything from placid lakes to rocky surfs.
Kenaga describes solving the mystery that is painting water.
Question. Painting water -- is that difficult to get down?
Answer. This class came up because a lot of people have difficulty painting water. We take it one step at a time. I start with placid water and show them how to do reflections. I move to breezy water and then big waves.
Q. Why is it so difficult?
A. The way I explain it is that you have to look at water as if it were a solid. They try to paint a transparent liquid as water. That's not the way to look at it. You need to think of it as a solid.
Q. Where do you go from there?
A. You just use a common-sense basis of oil painting of going from thin to thick and dark to light. It's a whole different idea. A lot is painted with what I call dry brush. You get the right color and you wipe most of it off onto a paper towel. You just have a tiny amount of paint. It allows you to blend things together.
Q. How long have you been painting?
A. I've always painted, even since I was a little kid. I've painted for about 50 years now. I paint the way some people go fishing. No formal training. I just do it. I'm just self-taught. I used to work at IBM installing computer systems. I have painted portraits professionally since I've been here. We've been here in Sun City since 1997. Some people think we arrive here with the knowledge and talent we have, but I've learned a tremendous amount since I've been here.