The hurricanes keep forming, and thankfully a few are staying off the coast. Ominous waves and rip tides though, as this study from Gloucester shows.
My fond farewell to the quarry for this season. Hoping to go back this winter for a new experience of the place..
These two studies were done on smooth, primed paper, which informed the quick, blocked in treatment using a palette knife. The strong sun gave me an opportunity to play with simplified shadows. I felt like Edward Hopper was sitting next to me, of course I was in his neighborhood!
There are many approaches to painting – especially on the continuum of realistic to abstract. I love them all when well-executed, but I think the most interesting way of painting looks for the intersection between realism and abstraction. Where the subject is evident and the handling of paint and composition are all in service to bringing out the Zen-like essential nature of both. In a great painting, one can savor the meaning and the way the subject is presented. One also glimpses how the painting seems to be anchored by history and at the same time fresh as tomorrow. The painting transparently lets us feel the artist’s process and thinking with each stroke. Of course producing such work takes time, practice, and, I think, wisdom gained throughout one’s life. It’s one reason why I keep doing these small paintings – to try new ideas and see if they will work in the context of what I want to say.
At the Old Quarry is a case in point. It is oil on prepared handmade paper, with the texture of the paper determining how it could be painted – what was possible. The uneven surface was perfect for a broader treatment using knife, pencil, and a (silicone) pointed scraper. I knew I wanted to base it on one of the quarries I visit regularly, but the composition also nods toward Mark Rothko’s famous stacked rectangles and squares. The energetic textural “strokes” acknowledge other abstract painters – including Joan Mitchell and Wolf Kahn. Working on this 7×7″ painting gave me insights into how I can approach a large 36×80″ panel waiting for my attention.
An intimate beach inside a rugged frame, that was my first thought when I decided to paint this view. I particularly liked the steep perspective looking down, and the question it raised: how to get there without a boat? Well of course there are two answers. You don’t, or you get out your hiking shoes. The latter rewarded me with great subjects for painting and a lovely day. I think my favorite is still the view from above. Enjoy.
Technical painting notes: I chose to to keep my approach to painting the scene similar to the my physical approach to the land. Think carefully about the next step, then do it without looking back. After that, whatever happens, happens. I used mostly the palette knife and Winsor Newton Liquin for the medium. The rough texture of the knife work echoes the rough, ledge. Combining two views – looking down and across – gives a sense of the space and allows me to share with the viewer the vertigo of deciding whether or not to climb down.
Beaches are such ephemeral places. A few strong storms and they can shift or nearly disappear entirely. Sometimes the new view includes glimpses of the underlying bedrock, as in these two small paintings. I actually prefer the mix of ledge and sand, hard and soft for compositional reasons and because it’s simply more interesting. That ledge makes for a better bulwark against the pounding tides of the future.
It’s the moody days I love, and the dizzying swells coming toward the honey and red stone ledges that shape the coast.
Technical painting notes: This small oil on primed paper was done mostly with a palette knife. Initially, I concentrate on blocking in broad shapes in values darker than what I see in the motif. When this layer is dry, I go back and define the forms using oil paints mixed with Liquin alkyd medium, which speeds the drying time and increases the transparency of the paint. I try to keep the painting spontaneous, taking advantage of accidents – even trying to cause those fruitful accidents on which the painting depends.
When strong winds whip waves toward the rocks, the result is thick foam – massively aerated water. The first time I saw this condition, I thought it looked a lot like the foam on expensive coffee. Another time, it looked like shredded foam mattresses washing in to shore. Not the processional blue waves of a calm, sunny day!