2023 – Chanctonbury Cup Winner

How to sketch a beach scene (after Jacques Prevert)

By Diana Mitchener

First choose a viewpoint and sink onto soft sand,
smoothing it flat with the palm of your hand, noting
the texture of the grains and minute shards of shells
glinting as they catch the sun.

Assess the scope of your sketch, how far
you will allow the outcrops of buildings
to intrude into the expanse of sky
and the ever-shifting colours of the sea.
Stay your hand before you reach for your pastels.
Feel the freshness of the Atlantic air and let
the piercing cry of seagull wash into the crevices
and whorls of your ear. Take your time.
Not even the clouds are in a hurry today.

Now draw the curve of the distant hillside to meet
the flat line of the sea. Mark out the bay and outline
apartment buildings and the beach café with its red
umbrellas. People can be added later.
You will need trees to add height to the scene – tufts
of leaves like hats topping straight-boled palms

Now lift sticks of pastels from their black box,
Select blues darkening from … to indigo.
The solitary powerful purple will stain the horizon
and sneak between ripples shivering on the surface.
Note how the breeze changes the pattern of ripples.
Enjoy, but

Keep an eye on the tide beyond its lacy fringe.
It will send exploratory ripples before gathering itself
into a mighty swell and advance rhythmically and inexorably
over the flat orange smoothness of its last retreat.
Finish today, for sky and sea will not wait for you.
Add the date in the bottom right-hand corner.