This was a challenging painting. It started off as a quarter sheet of paper covered with golden watercolor grounds. I have been wondering about the gold background for seascapes and today seemed like a good day to explore this, since I would be painting with friends. I began by blocking in some of the major big shapes of the view of Torrey Pines looking south from the north parking lot. Soon I had a gray scene that was not very interesting. At about an hour into this painting, I got out a pen and drew lines, trying to save the sketch by defining the edges of the mountain, foliage, and sea.
I left Torrey Pines thinking I would abandon this sketch but after putting it aside and then looking again, I wondered if the problem might be a lack of contrast. Because I used gouache transparently over the gold watercolor ground, the sketch was mostly middle values. I lightened the central area, brought in some blue to the trees in the upper left, added the boulders at the lower left, painted over some of the pen lines, and decided I liked the sketch after all.
At this point, I prefer the gold grounds for figures, but don’t want to give up too quickly on the golden seascapes.