Painting with The Ocean: "Psyche" (feat. David Nelson Bradsher)

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In February 2014, my painting "Psyche" (above) was hung at the VAE Art Gallery in downtown Raleigh, NC.


 Writer David Nelson Bradsher was awesome enough to model for me recently (if you're interested in modeling yourself,  go here! ). In this before-and-after, you can see the image taken in my studio in Raleigh (on the right), and the final painting I created (on the left). 

Writer David Nelson Bradsher was awesome enough to model for me recently (if you're interested in modeling yourself, go here!). In this before-and-after, you can see the image taken in my studio in Raleigh (on the right), and the final painting I created (on the left). 

Every year, when I was little, we'd go to Emerald Isle and stay at a place called "Upstairs, Downstairs" (at least, that's what we called it, because the living room was upstairs and the bedrooms were downstairs). Emerald Isle is a south-facing island, which makes it a rare gem for sunsets and sunrises right on the water. Each morning, I'd wake up extra early, to watch the sunrise over the water from the balcony, and each night I'd leave the sliding door to my bedroom open so I could hear the waves. 

For years, I watched my Dad add sand to his paintings, and shells, and sea oats. He loves a sense of texture in painting, and always taught me that paintings are meant to be touched---even famous ones (but that story is for a different post). 

Since I work in a largely digital space, I wanted to find a way to paint with the ocean, and in a way that involved actually being there. So I had this idea to paint on a canvas, and then hold it under the splash of a wave at the ocean. On the day that "Psyche" was made, the water was pretty freezing (and, of course, I was barefoot), but I've never felt more connected to a canvas. The following is an illustrated behind-the-scenes insight into the creation of my first work in what I hope will grow into a series, Painting with the Ocean

How "Psyche" (the painting portion) was Created:

I drove down to Topsail Island, NC, with my little Prius filled with paints, canvases and lunch. This was the first time I'd ever endeavored to "paint with the ocean" so I had no idea how it would go. That said, here's the journey I took that day, working backwards towards a blank canvas.

 The finished painting portion of the portrait, drying, caked in sand and salt and sprayed with Lysol to stop bacteria growth (a trick learned from experience, working with my Dad and seaweed....if you don't Lysol, the car ride home is horrendously smelly!).

The finished painting portion of the portrait, drying, caked in sand and salt and sprayed with Lysol to stop bacteria growth (a trick learned from experience, working with my Dad and seaweed....if you don't Lysol, the car ride home is horrendously smelly!).


 The view, from near where I parked. A young boy was feeding the seagulls, so they congregated thusly. A nice farewell to the ocean. 

The view, from near where I parked. A young boy was feeding the seagulls, so they congregated thusly. A nice farewell to the ocean. 

 Still wet, here is the final image of the painted portion of David's portrait. 

Still wet, here is the final image of the painted portion of David's portrait. 

 Ink stains left in the sand, from my palette knife scooping sand into the painting.  

Ink stains left in the sand, from my palette knife scooping sand into the painting.  

 View from the painting's level. My favorite paints (acrylic indian ink) holding the sopping wet ( at this point) painting down, after I held it under a wave. The sand is cold, as it had recently snowed along the coast. 

View from the painting's level. My favorite paints (acrylic indian ink) holding the sopping wet ( at this point) painting down, after I held it under a wave. The sand is cold, as it had recently snowed along the coast. 

 Super-wet, and with less sand and newly added gesso. The colors are so bright at this point. 

Super-wet, and with less sand and newly added gesso. The colors are so bright at this point. 

 Palette knife Dad gave me. 

Palette knife Dad gave me. 

 Bottle filled with sand and seawater, for spraying over the canvas to move the ink and image with more precision after being dunked in the water's waves. 

Bottle filled with sand and seawater, for spraying over the canvas to move the ink and image with more precision after being dunked in the water's waves. 

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 After being dunked, the first time, under a wave's spray. 

After being dunked, the first time, under a wave's spray. 

 Walking out to my painting accomplice (the ocean) to put the canvas under a wave, to truly paint with the ocean for the first time. 

Walking out to my painting accomplice (the ocean) to put the canvas under a wave, to truly paint with the ocean for the first time. 

 Before being dunked at all. Just added the Medium Liquid Gesso---which is meant to hold the colors of the India ink, even after the whole canvas is submerged in a wave or two. Gesso is thicker and more viscous, so will hold better than the very runny ink.  

Before being dunked at all. Just added the Medium Liquid Gesso---which is meant to hold the colors of the India ink, even after the whole canvas is submerged in a wave or two. Gesso is thicker and more viscous, so will hold better than the very runny ink.  

 The first layer of the acrylic ink. 

The first layer of the acrylic ink. 

 Horses in the winter surf. 

Horses in the winter surf. 

 The first ink is spilt. 

The first ink is spilt. 

 A fellow curiosity on the winter beach. They passed several times as I worked. 

A fellow curiosity on the winter beach. They passed several times as I worked. 

 A blank canvas in hand, and this place selected to sit in the sand. 

A blank canvas in hand, and this place selected to sit in the sand. 

 Starting an experiment. 

Starting an experiment. 


 The final image, "Psyche", by Cari Corbett, 2014.

The final image, "Psyche", by Cari Corbett, 2014.

What do you think of this "painting with the ocean" project? Would you like to be a part of it, as it evolves?  

Leave your email to learn when new opportunities arise to become involved.

Your interest could make or break this project's growth.


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If you are interested in modeling for an art portrait with me in my studio in Raleigh, NC, email me and introduce yourself. Or if you want to see more of my work, check out my portfolio here.