On the Easel: Airlie Beach, August 2020

I have some catching up to do with the On the Easel posts. I painted Airlie Beach in August and have done a few since then.

I traveled to Airlie Beach recently with my brother and father. It’s a stunning place in the Whitsundays, within reach despite the world’s travel restrictions. We were blessed with perfect weather; glassy turquoise water, pure white sand, and not a cloud in the sky. It would have been ideal to paint alone from the beach itself, but it wasn’t one of those trips. Photos and memory had to do for this painting. This was also the first time I painted on Ampersand gessoboard. Now my painting surface of choice.

Anyway, here’s the finished painting, along with notes and progress shots.

Dan Scott, Airlie Beach, 2020
Dan Scott, Airlie Beach, 2020

Reference Photo

Cameras have limitations. They cannot capture color as we see it. They do a fantastic job, but a photo is no substitute for our own perception. This is particularly evident in high-contrast scenes like below. The shadows are underexposed and the colors are lost in darkness. The camera also picked up glare in the top left-hand corner. I needed to take all this into account when painting from this photo.

Reference Photo Airlie Beach 700Web


  • Oil on Ampersand Gessoboard. 12 x 16 inches.
  • Main colors: Ultramarine blue, cobalt blue, alizarin crimson, cadmium red, cadmium yellow deep, cadmium yellow, viridian green, titanium white.

Refer to my supplies list for more details on what I use.


  • I painted from the reference photo, my memory of the scene, and the following color study (5 x 7 inches). It seems I rarely confront a large studio painting without having at least one small study under my belt.
Dan Scott, Airlie Beach, 2020, Study
Dan Scott, Airlie Beach, 2020, Study
  • I used a segmented approach, painting one segment to near completion, then onto the next. The trouble with this approach is the end result may look disjointed, like an assortment of well-painted parts rather than a coherent finished painting. But I feel that’s not the case here.
  • I painted directly onto the white gessoboard surface, rather than applying a thin stain of color, as I often do. I have no real reason for doing this, other than it felt like the right approach at the time.
  • I departed from the reference photo for the shadows, relying more on my memory of the scene. As I mentioned earlier, cameras are not good at capturing color in shadows.
  • I took advantage of a wide variety of techniques. For the dappled light, I wiped away paint with a solvent-dabbed paper towel. For the high-key colors, I used a palette knife to apply impasto strokes of color. For the dark trees in the top left-hand corner, I applied thin washes of color then lifted paint with a paper towel and a loose hand.
  • I used small bursts of color to depict activity on the beach, focused on capturing the impression rather than form. I drew inspiration from the Russian impressionists for this.

Progress Shots

WIP Airlie Beach (1)
WIP Airlie Beach (2)
WIP Airlie Beach (3)
WIP Airlie Beach (4)
WIP Airlie Beach (5)
WIP Airlie Beach (6)
WIP Airlie Beach (7)
Dan Scott, Airlie Beach (Main), 2020 700W
Dan Scott, Airlie Beach, 2020

Additional Resources

Thanks for Reading!

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I appreciate it! Feel free to share with friends. If you want more painting tips, check out my Painting Academy course.

Happy painting!

Dan Scott

Draw Paint Academy


Dan Scott is the founder of Draw Paint Academy. He's a self-taught artist from Australia with a particular interest in landscape painting. Draw Paint Academy is run by Dan and his wife, Chontele, with the aim of helping you get the most out of the art life. You can read more on the About page.

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4 comments on “On the Easel: Airlie Beach, August 2020”

  1. Love your progress notes, and honest remarks. This is how we all learn.
    I do this myself and post my work on Facebook (Sylvia Hayes).


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