“Lifeguard Station, Jacksonville Beach – Beach Blvd. & 1st Street North”

"Lifeguard Station, Jacksonville Beach - Beach Blvd. & 1st Street North", by Robert Leedy, watercolor on Arches 140 lb. Cold Press paper, 14" x 21.25". From the "Beach Access" series.

[click on the image for a much closer view]

Here’s another painting that fits nicely into my ongoing “Beach Access” series. This actually started out as a demonstration painting for my watercolor class. I arose very early one morning and drove down to the Jacksonville Beach Lifeguard Station before sunrise. I set up my tripod and camera to photograph what is probably not the most classic view of the lifeguard station. But what I really liked was the weird combination of light: sunrise and sodium vapor  street lights from the adjacent hotel parking lot. I was also intrigued by all of the “junk” behind the station – a lifeboat, lifeguard chairs, surfboards, air conditioners, kyaks, umbrellas, and more.

I photographed the scene at various settings and later processed the image using HDR software which gives me an almost human eye-like, overall balanced exposure. A very good photographic image to paint from is the result. The HDR seems to enhance the sodium vapor lights and the pinkish, orange light drastically changes what is normally a white building.

I got out of the parking lot before I aroused any unnecessary attention. I mean, don’t you imagine Homeland Security might come running if they saw a strange man photographing the air conditioning units of a public building at 6:30 in the morning?

In class, I showed students how to start a painting with a complete, unrelated underpainting – random color put down wet-into-wet on paper. When the underpainting is dry, I drew my scene onto the paper and began laying in color. The photograph is merely a start and I eventually tossed it aside to create interesting color combinations and solve color problems on my own. The photographic image is merely a jump start. The painting went on to the studio for further work…

The surreal lighting gave me an open invitation to play with color and have fun. And fun I did have! This may not be the Chamber of Commerce view of the lifeguard station but it turned into a nice painting regardless…

…and I avoided getting arrested on terrorism charges!

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