Photos & Painting of Dolphin Beach Dunes

Christmas holiday trip:

Ada took photos while in Cape Town over Christmas 2016

We spent a couple of weeks there, and had a grand time. Here is what we did on our first outing on the 23rd of December:

Took photo of beach first

Oil painting, size .360 x .287m: Cape Town, Dolphin Beach, with storm brewing over the sea and dunes.




The bird sanctuary near Dolphin Beach:

The weather in Cape Town was windy and it rained on and off before Christmas. So not waiting any longer for the weather to clear, one late afternoon, we went down to a bird sanctuary vlei (wetlands) near Dolphin Beach, hoping to see some flamingos there.

But there weren’t any, perhaps because the water levels were too low. Shame the vlei looked so devastated, due to the long drought we’ve had here in South Africa. We stayed there sometime looking around for bird life. Only a few mallard ducks braved the wind.

Photos of the beach & sanctuary.

Google map of the Dolphin Beach area. Including the dark area (bottom right corner) where the bird sanctuary is.


Since I was more interested in our surroundings, I looked for possible photos I could possibly take. With the water table lowered, the `white’ mud of the bog was drying up and sadly exposed a lot trash. We even discovered an old sand-shoe (tackie) and a disposed sun-shield `cap’.

Photos of bird sanctuary

Photo of the bird sanctuary near Dolphin Beach, Cape Town

I love Nature:

But what really fascinated me were the different types of grass and undergrowth. See the photos on this page. I loved the gold of the seed heads against the cool colours of the background. So beautiful waving in the wind! Almost like an abstract.

Photos of grass

Photo of the lovely gold seeded grass at the bird sanctuary near Dolphin Beach, Cape Town.

Then the sand dunes of Dolphin Beach:

After getting back into the car, we went and parked near Dolphin Beach. You can see what the dunes looked like before we toiled our way up and over them onto the beach on the other side.

Photos of dunes

Photo of dunes leading up the ridge before moving onto the beach.

The wind was so strong… it was hard to keep your balance.

I kept losing my sandals in the very soft fine dune sand. This made me waste a lot of time trying to put my sandals back on. With the wind so strong and me losing my balance, I became disoriented. It felt like the sand was unstable and shifting all the time. I said to myself, “Stop this nonsense at once. Leave your sandals off you silly girl and get some decent photos.

Photos of the dunes

Another photo of the dunes before moving up and over the ridge.

It was getting darker all the time because of the brewing storm.

Looking up at the sky I saw how profoundly dramatic and powerful it looked. And added to that, the subtle tints and shades of the sand were so exciting. Well to me as an artistic anyway. This gave me such a thrill, that it stimulated me into thinking, “I must paint this come what may!”

Of cause in those conditions I would never be able to paint it there and then. I didn’t have time to take closer photos of the actual sea, because by then everyone had moved far off and I was left alone to do my thing. So I had no choice but make the best of the moment and take photos of the dunes surrounding me as I stood there warbling in the wind.

Oil painting of the dunes: (see first image on the page)

In reality the sand was so fine and `white’, in spite of the weather and the contrast of the darkening sky! In my photos, the sand is a soft pink light creamy colour. I thought it would be exciting to paint those subtle changes of graduated hues into my oil painting.

As to the composition, I wanted to paint that angry dark sky, in all its glory and power. But that meant reducing the sandy foreground. When I tried that, the composition lost its power somehow. So that is why I landed up with the horizon cutting the painting in half!

You try cutting parts of the composition off for yourself, to see how you would handle the composition. How much sky or how much foreground of the sand would you incorporate?

The contrast of the sky and the sand also proposed a problem. Especially, as the sky looks so dark and blue against the stark `white’ sand. But that is how it is in reality. The stark difference actually gives the painting its powerful attraction don’t you think?! But somehow I had to pull the two dimensions together, so I used some of the blue of the sky and put a little of it in the sandy foreground.

I love atmospheric conditions.

Can you see how the wind was lashing the clouds up in my painting of the dunes and creating that atmospheric dimension in the sky? Maybe not in this photo, but you can in the original painting.

  • Well  I painted the sky and clouds first. Putting in the basics shapes and colours.
  • Then taking a soft shaving brush (or fan brush if you like) and softly drawing the brush through the wet paint of the clouds.

The technique of drawing your brush through your skies a lot of fun and nerve-racking all at the same time. You either get or lose it.

More location paintings that can also be seen in the “Location Adventures” category: