The ephemeral coastline, constantly changing as the tide ebbs and flows, is a complex subject for painting. The geometry of the outcrops and ledges, the whimsy of the water, call combined with the changing mood of the weather – what fun! These two studies, from warmer, then cooler, days began with a dark underpainting. When that was dry, I started to develop the medium values then the lights. Along the way, I tried to keep the feeling of vigor and roughness, for this coastline is anything but gentle. It is full of surprises – changes in coloration in the layers of stone can be quite drastic, especially the nearly black layers. This is a slippery, treacherous place.
Watching the Waves Come In is a long-term series that is always in development. Every time I learn something new I see what effect it will have on my little wave paintings. Or sometimes these small paintings inform my larger work. Either way, they are a delight to paint. I used to use a brush when working on them, but now it is mostly the palette knife, with more attention paid to the viscosity of the paint and the choice of paper – smooth or textured watercolor paper (primed). I look for ways to let the viscosity emulate the action of the water – more like sneaking up on the subject rather than trying to copy a moment or view. This approach, at least for me, yields more of the feel of my watery subject. It also allows for random accidents to influence the painting’s development, and life is certainly about the accidents. Enjoy.
The raw power and quaking tremors that one feels when standing on the rocks can be breath taking. It travels from the feet up through the legs, sort of a deep bass vibration, especially after big storms. These three small paintings, two with the tide coming in, one with the tide going out, provide a 7×7″ version of the experience. Enjoy!
I happen to love luminous gray days by the sea. The value range may be narrow, but the feeling of walking into a (nearly) black and white photograph is soothing. Colors are so full of emotion that a bit of gray can be restorative. It doesn’t make as many demands on our senses. With that in mind, i decided to push the minimalist limits of gray in two small beach paintings. There is still a sense of sound from the waves, and I hope you feel the spray. But equally, I hope you enjoy the subtleties in the palette knife handling of the paint, and the gentle contrasts of warmer and cooler in the grays. In fact, the more you look the more color you will see……..
I usually do preliminary investigations of a subject – small studies on prepared paper – as a way to try out colors, techniques, and to figure out my response to what I’m seeing. These arboreal studies told me that it was the wind, more than the actual tree, that wanted to be my subject. The colors inform my emotional response, but moving air, especially on a hot summer day, well, that’s what I crave. So these studies are about the blue, cloud-strewn sky and wind as seen through the trembling leaves. Enjoy.
Technical painting notes: All the studies were painted on prepared rag paper, usually primed with clear shellac front and back. I used the palette knife almost exclusively. I suspect that translating these studies to a larger scale will mean abandoning the knife in favor of a roller to accommodate the change in scale.
I’m always looking for new ponds and rivers to investigate. Sometimes the newest are close-by; it’s just takes a fresh perspective or change of weather…….enjoy.
Technical painting notes: Each of these studies is painted on prepared watercolor paper (one coat of clear shellac front and back, to isolate the fibers from the acid in the paint). I used Winsor Newton Impasto medium to speed drying and to give the paint a rich, buttery feel – very useful for palette knife painting. I find a silicone scraper with a chiselled tip especially useful for drawing through the wet paint to reveal color below. I also used an ebony pencil to draw into the wet paint for darker lines and to offer crisp graphic relief when juxtaposed with the buttery paint.
As part of the new series painting with Corot, I’ve been revisiting and rethinking some of my favorite places, and doing more small studies. These two small paintings from a quarry in Gloucester, Massachusetts, worked mostly with a palette knife, were an attempt to see the larger masses and ignore the small details. Perhaps a roller could achieve a similar effect on a larger scale? Enjoy.