Seascapes and Transitions

Things have been a bit strange on my island paradise for the past few months. There are numerous transitions to pass through in changing locations. We’ve been here since June and the first two months were spent painting a few pictures and unpacking. I had enormous difficulty in becoming grounded here.

Not only because this is an island surrounded by water, but I had no friends here, except my husband. We’re slowly but surely acclimating to island life and beginning to get acquainted. I’ve been devouring root vegetables, walking barefoot, and practicing yoga while sitting on our one-ton rock overlooking the sunset (that my husband hauled all the way from Orlando) and doing all that I know to do to get grounded and tuned into my dharma. Some of the things I love most about island life are the absence of clocks and calendars (for the most part), the sound of silence in the night (except for the fish jumping), and the gorgeous skies (constantly evolving). The stars are nice, too. I can’t say much about the people here, because we’re just getting introduced. There is a huge amount of community spirit, but we haven’t had much chance to be social. We joined the Matlacha Civic Association because we are trying to stop the City of Cape Coral from illegally annexing property on our island.

Feeling myself slipping into depression, I decided to throw myself into a big project that allowed me to focus on something beautiful. Eva Volf is an artist that paints fantastic seascapes in oils and I received permission from her to attempt to recreate one of her paintings in acrylics. I fell in love with the composition but knew that I do not possess the skills to paint such realistic impressions in acrylics. I was determined to give it my best shot. I don’t usually post reference photos with my paintings, but I want to give Eva full credit for the original. Isn’t this gorgeous? Keep in mind, I wasn’t trying to copy her, but to use her painting as inspiration to create one in my own style with acrylics.

“Awakening” 48X60 oils on canvas by Eva Volf


Unlike oils that are easily blended, acrylics take layers and layers to achieve results. They dry super-fast, like within minutes, instead of hours into days. And this was the largest canvas I have ever worked on at three feet by four feet. This presented many challenges. Acrylics dry much darker than they appear as applied. It’s difficult for me to color mix keeping this fact in mind. With experience, I know I will learn better how to judge. The project took me 2 ½ months working 4-16 hours a day. Many times I had to repaint, or even gesso over dark areas with white and start anew. I worked in distinct sections for days into weeks until I was comfortable enough to move onto a new section. In the end, I was quite satisfied with the results. I am having it framed for Christmas. Eva’s is much lighter, softer, and less dramatic. I don’t really like comparing my work to someone else’s, because we are all doing our own thing. Suffice it to say, her beautiful pieces are such an inspiration to me.

“Light on a New Day” 36X48 acrylics on canvas Susan K. Nicholls

I have always wanted a seascape to hang in my living room. Now I have one. I tried fluffier clouds surrounding the sunrise, but good ones are not in my skill-set as of yet, so I opted for a fog bank burning off. I can always go back and update the painting if I improve and feel so inclined.

Hung in the living room

The frame I picked out is to be made from whitewashed sea-weathered wood. I think it will look very nice. The painting has been curing since mid-November. Today I will put on the first two coats of varnish, one more coat tomorrow, and then after a few days of drying time, it will be ready to take to be framed.

on the wall

Finishing this monster project was bittersweet. I’m feeling accomplished, yet I know I have so much more to learn. I started this project exactly one year from the day that I picked up a brush and decided to paint.

First painting-Kate Jobling tutorial, last painting-Eva Volk inspired

I am painting a cup for the local breakfast diner, “The Perfect Cup”. That should only take a day, or so. Then I have a train to paint for my step-son’s Christmas present. Beyond that, I am hoping to commence with painting more original artwork inspired by the island life. I will still be doing a few tutorials because I learn so much from every little one. My favorite instructor has been in school in Italy for the past two months. I am looking forward to his return.

Abbey-The Water Dog

We attended the local tree-lighting get-together on Friday, with Abbey, the water dog, where we met many locals, snowbirds, and other doggies. I’m beginning to feel like I belong here, despite the fact that there is a tRump flag flying in front of every other house. (Okay, I won’t make this a political post, but sheesh…suffice it to say, I share the world view of this man with those beyond our borders and at least half of the world within them.)

If I don’t get back to you before Christmas, have a Merry one, Happy Holidays, and a wonderful New Year filled with love and light and joy! Peace be with you and yours.

I almost forgot! Here’s a quick boat tour around the tip of the island if you need something to warm you up today. It’s 85 degrees here today.

14 thoughts on “Seascapes and Transitions

  1. Susan, I applaud your serious devotion to art, which seems to complement your writing skills. After five years I finally published my memoir. I can’t imagine jumping into a new endeavor as I’m busy promoting Mennonite Daughter these days. Have a Merry Christmas and wonderful new year!

    1. I have yet to seriously promote my artwork. Right now I am merely learning techniques and color mixing. It can be a challenge to decide even which brush to use for a desired effect. I experiment a lot. Good luck with your memoir. I know you put much time, heart, and soul into this project. I still enjoy writing. Marketing is a time drain no matter what your creative medium.

    1. Thanks, George. I used to think that you shaded colors by adding black to make a darker version of that color. Sometimes you do, but more often you add the opposite color on the color wheel to obtain a darker shade. I did not closely notice shadows until I got serious about painting and now I see them everywhere. Another funny thing is that I see a color in nature or life and my head starts trying to decide which colors I need to mix in order to obtain that color or shade. I’m literally seeing the world in a whole different way.

      1. Yes, that’s true. Have you ever read James Gurney’s “Color & Light”? Gurney is the creator of the “Dinotopia” series, and this book is a vital tool for any realist painter. And he discusses the concepts and theories regarding the color wheel – which has taken many forms over the decades. But it’s his acute descriptions of various forms of light and how it all reflects upon a particular subject that actually makes for some fascinating reading. Good luck, Susan! I want to start producing my own artwork and know I just have to take the leap into it.

        1. You should do that. You never know what might happen until you try. I highly recommend the YT tutorials as they provide much info, not only on techniques, also on the many supplies different companies offer and how to use them. That’s been really helpful to me. This is my first try with acrylics and despite some of its drawbacks, they are much easier and cleaner to use than oils.

            1. I am not a studied artist beyond my You Tube instructors. Have not been to any art school or taken any classes (except ceramic arts). I use what I believe is a traditional color wheel printed by, get this, “The Color Wheel Company”…lol I think I got it on Amazon. It’s the color wheel on the top left of their website. Their ph # is 541-929-7526 if you have more questions.

  2. Oh, I’ve been out of touch with you for so long and what great things you’ve been doing and I’ve been missing! Susan, your artwork is BEAUTIFUL! The painting is perfect in your living room, too. I really admire how you are tapping into all your creative interests. Have a wonderful holiday and keep painting!

    1. Thanks, Marie. I see your posts on FB and have been reading some of the more current ones. I think some have been on other platforms besides WP. Your short stories are stellar. I don’t often comment because I am usually reading between drying times…lol…then I have to get back to painting, else I will stay all day. I was really sad to hear about the shooting and included the victims in my Akaal.

      I’ve been practicing Kundalini Yoga for nearly two years now and it most definitely has helped my creative flow.

      You post some gorgeous pictures of your natural surroundings. For some reason, I thought you moved out west, but now I’m thinking you are back in the panhandle. If you are ever in the Sarasota or Ft. Myers area drop me a line. We would love to take you and yours out to Cayo Costa. The State Park has neat little rustic cabins near the beach and I feel you would appreciate being immersed in that gorgeous place. It’s only accessible by boat. We’ve got that covered. We also have a guest room if feral pigs deter you from overnighting at CC. Ha!
      P.S. I love the new hair. 🙂

      1. So good to hear from you, Susan! We are still in the panhandle. We yearn to move out west, but who knows? My husband is retired and is waiting on me to retire, a couple of years yet. So while we’re still here, we’re trying to make the most of Florida’s natural beauty (at least, what remains of it). Thank you for your kind offer. I’ll definitely look into Cayo Costa. I’ve lived in FL for 30 years but have seen very little of it.

        1. We have been doing quite a bit of island hopping since we’ve been here in Matlacha. Cabbage Key and Cayo Costa are two favorites. We were recently embroiled with Cape Coral over annexation (we won and stopped it [at least for now]), and I do understand what you mean by “What’s left of it”. Every day is a battle. Ten years ago the sea grass was everywhere around here and the crystal clear waters were teaming with trout. You could take a bucket and dip it into the water and scoop up little seahorses. Now, you are lucky if you run across a patch of sea grass. So sad.

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