Dunes and thunderheads
By Margaret Foster
March 27, 2017
Meg Walsh worked as an editor at National Geographic magazine for more than 20 years and began painting full time in 2004. She has painted many scenes of Navarre, a beach on Florida’s Panhandle, east of Pensacola.
I’ve been going down to Florida since 1974, when I graduated from high school, because my parents moved there. I’d go down to Navarre a couple times a year to visit them, but I never took my paints. By the time I really got into painting, they needed my full attention whenever I was around. They died within nine months of each other. The first time I ever painted down there was after they died. I still go to Navarre in the spring and fall to check on their condo, and I keep an easel and paints there now.
It’s the prettiest beach I’ve ever seen in the United States, and it spoiled me for any other beaches. There’s a national seashore there, and a huge state park nearby. You have Santa Rosa Sound on one side, and the Gulf of Mexico on the other, with these great dunes. The gulf water is turquoise when it’s not stirred up. You can walk the beach, and there’s never anyone on it. I’ve seen so many things while walking by the water: huge schools of manta rays, sharks, dolphins, pelicans, and lots of seabirds. Sometimes it’s so smooth you can go out on a kayak.
I did Before the Deluge a couple of years ago. A friend and I were painting on the beach, and it was so windy and bright that I decided to paint from under the pier. The light in the sky got my attention, so I started painting that. Then the sky turned black. There’s always either a hurricane warning or a storm when I’m there. On one of my trips, Pensacola, which isn’t far away, got 10 inches of rain in a couple hours and flooded a few roads.
The hardest part of painting there is that it’s so bright that the sand is like snow. You have to go out early in the day or late in the evening. I always wear a big hat, and I try to use an umbrella. Everybody always wants to talk to you when you’re painting—they say, “Paint me, paint me!”
Margaret Foster was associate editor of the Scholar.
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