Following Low Tide

TM9315 Following Low Tide 36×54 oil on panel

Wide expanses of sky and a disappearing ocean provide the subject for this large painting from Lubec, Maine. The surprise of seeing what lies beneath the water always rouses my curiosity. Rivulets and pools interspersed with ribbons of sand, slippery green algae, and peat banks form complex patterns across the nearly flat plane. A distant headland is barely visible in the encroaching fog. This is a quiet place. Enjoy.

Technical painting notes: I used a soft rubber roller to lay down a streaky layer of dark reddish brown oil paint, swished a manipulated with mineral spirits to suggest some of the textures I wanted. Later, as I worked up the details from the scene, the painting started to get too fussy, so I took out the roller again and simply re-rolled over some of the wet paint to “disturb” it. Patterns of wet paint repeated themselves as they came off the roller, creating a more interesting effect. I also rolled a semi-transparent layer of the gray/beige to suggest the sand, then let the accidents of rolling determine where the darker wet sand would be. FInal touches were highlighting the ridges of sand with more opaque paint, adding the strips of water caught between the ridges, and introducing a warm light to some of the further sand patches. Multiple grey glazes of fog pushed the horizon into the deeper distance.

From Here to There

nc web TM8700 Between Here and There 36x40 oil on panel

TM8700 From Here to There 36×40 oil on panel

Simple can be best. I started this painting with thoughts of a complex sky over the stark, low tide, Lubec Channel on the coast of Maine. As I worked, the focus changed. I saw the interesting subtleties of the land, and decided to subdue the sky, while maintaining some of the original cloud forms and fog bank. The contrast of the truly dark mud and channel bottom with the bright white of the incoming fog sets up enough drama. At the same time, the drama is soothing – perhaps due to the quiet tones and strong horizontals interspersed with sliding angles. The dark band of channel bottom was a great place to experiment with the use of impasto medium and some knife work, along with using a silicone scraper to “dig” into the paint. Spatter layers set the gravelly foreground, especially after I added some broken brushstrokes. Details below. Enjoy.

nc web TM8700 Between Here and There  - detail from middle left showing Grand Manon across the low tide Lubec Channel with exposed granite outcrop, fog rolling in

TM8700 Between Here and There – detail from middle left showing Grand Manon across the low tide Lubec Channel

nc web TM8700 From Here to There - detail from foreground showing outcrop and exposed marine vegetation

TM8700 From Here to There – detail from foreground showing outcrop and exposed marine vegetation

Watching the Tide Go Out

TM8695 Watching the Tide Go Out 40x50 oil on panel

TM8695 Watching the Tide Go Out 40×50 oil on panel

Everything is in transition. That is the theme behind Watching the Tide Go Out. Weather is changing; the sea has all but disappeared. Now it is possible to see what lies beneath – the sorted gravels, mud, salty vegetation, the soggy ground of clams, even the patterns left by clammers and an occasional vehicle. But along with the theme of transition, there’s also the reassurance of seeing far into the distance – wide open space and early mist lifting. A sense of anticipation. Landscape art is place. For me, it also is a way to portray an emotional attachment to the land, and to home. Details below. Enjoy.

TM8695 Watching the Tide Go Out - close-up of distant headland retreating sea with cloud reflections, shadows

TM8695 Watching the Tide Go Out – close-up of distant headland retreating sea with cloud reflections, shadows

Technical painting notes: The sky is straightforward oil painting, but the lower two fifths of the painting employ every technique I know to suggest the varied conditions of a retreating sea. The base layer of dark umbers and blues was rolled on with a soft rubber brayer. Before the paint could dry, I swished mineral spirits (mixed with a bit of stand oil) across was the surface, then spritzed it with more mineral spirits, then dragged a plastic bag across the surface. I wanted a crisply streaky, dark surface with highlights. Some areas were rolled again with out paint on the roller, to distribute the layer and soften textures. The whole process was repeated several times to build up a dense and interesting layer. Finally, just before the paint set up, I used a silicone scraper to create crisp light lines in the foreground – both to evoke the vegetation and to change the size of the marks so that the foreground would feel close.

TM8695 Watcing the Tide Go Out - detail showing methods used to suggest retreating water and sorted sediments

TM8695 Watcing the Tide Go Out – detail showing methods used to suggest retreating water and sorted sediments

TM8695 Watching the Tide Go Out - detail showing textures, scraping, and brushwork in foreground

TM8695 Watching the Tide Go Out – detail showing textures, scraping, and brushwork in foreground

 

 

Quiet Morning

TM8692 Quiet Morning 36x48 oil on panel

TM8692 Quiet Morning 36×48 oil on panel

The sea comes and goes, and in Lubec, Maine it can ebb a long way. This view across Lubec’s low tide flats toward Grand Manon in New Brunswick, Canada  makes one think about walking on water. Or maybe not. I walked a similar area off Campobello Island once. Most of the beach was shingled (covered with stones), but when I accidentally placed my foot on what looked like a bit of mud, I sank up to my knee – surprise! A walking stick is a good idea. Those mud flats do still attract me, however. Here’s so much marine life. There’s also something more profound – a quality of being scraped clean, and seeing simple sky, water, and land. Complicated and simple at the same time – stark and subtle. Details below. Enjoy.

TM8692 Quiet Morning - close-up of headland

TM8692 Quiet Morning – close-up of headland

TM8692 Quiet Morning - detail across the tidal flats

TM8692 Quiet Morning – detail across the tidal flats

TM8692 Quiet Morning - detail

TM8692 Quiet Morning – detail

Technical painting notes: With Quiet Morning, I wanted to emphasize the stark simplicity of the the bands of sky, receding water, and land. I also liked the idea of a slice of cerulean blue sky  bounded by bright gray, with the only other colors being a tiny bit of green and muted orange, dusty grayed red, plus lots of subdued gray/blue/browns. Lubec can feel like a black and white photograph, the colors are so subtle and the atmospherics so quietly intense. The challenge of how to bring the shine of wet mud up to the foreground plants was resolved with repeated glazes and manipulation of shadow. I pressed textures into the wet glaze, waited for it to dry, and glazed again. It gives the impression of wet mud seen beneath a film of water.

Out on the Clam Flats

TM8691 Out on the Clam Flats 36x54 oil on panel

TM8691 Out on the Clam Flats 36×54 oil on panel

It’s astounding what you see when the tide goes out – especially around the Bay of Fundy. This view of the clam flats in Lubec, Maine is from low tide. I’ve often seen clammers working out there, and I’ve wandered the flats myself, looking at the vegetation, peat, myriad complexly patterned stones, sea cucumbers shells, and rich mud. There are so many micro-environments between Grand Manon (distant isle), Campobello Island (darker headland), and Quoddy Head beyond the picture to the right. In a few hours, only the headland will be above water. The distant fog bank will steal Grand Manon. The fog is present almost every day, sometimes enveloping, sometimes retreating, always mysterious. Details below. Enjoy.

TM8691 Out on the Clam Flats - foreground detail

TM8691 Out on the Clam Flats – foreground detail

TM8691 Out on the Clam Flats - detail from left side with distant headland, retreating water, and foreground scrub

TM8691 Out on the Clam Flats – detail from left side with distant headland, retreating water, and foreground scrub

TM8691 Out on the Clam Flats - detail from foreground showing textures and brushwork

TM8691 Out on the Clam Flats – detail from foreground showing textures and brushwork

Technical painting notes: My greatest difficulty with this painting was finding a way to describe such a subtle middle and foreground, while having enough nuance to keep it interesting. I used monoprint techniques of spattering, blotting, wiping, and layering paint with a roller to create the base layer. When it was dry, I glazed and glazed, then used a crumpled plastic bag to apply paint mixed with Liquin Impasto medium for some highlights. I used thin oil paint to suggest the water, applying it like a watercolorist with soft wash brushes.

Leaning into the Fog

TM8018 Leaning into the Fog 36x36 oil on panel

TM8018 Leaning into the Fog 36×36 oil on panel

The prominent, gloriously rough-hewn cliffs overlooking the Atlantic in Lubec, Maine are a feast for the senses. On my first visit, I thought I’d gone to heaven. Everything felt to so clear and clean – the air smelled of the sea, the gray rocks and wet, black stones seemed stripped of their color, and the sky too, filled with rolling fog banks, was a pearly gray. Only the seaweed screamed out in color, made all the more dramatic by the brief carpets of green by the salt pools. The wildly patterned intrusions of quartz running through the ledge took on a Jackson Pollock aspect. I visit this spot every chance I get, hoping to capture its soul-satisfying presence in a painting. My first visit was over a decade ago, and that’s when I started this painting. I thought it was finished several times, but with new knowledge and experience  painting other work, I found ways to intensify my view.

Working on a painting over several years provides ample time to think about the subject, and what it means to me. In the beginning, it was the sheer, stark, ruggedness and complexity of the geography that appealed, but now I think it’s more about the way the demeanor of the ledge. It is old and worn, but still beautiful as it faces the Atlantic’s fierce storms and the unknown. There is a nobility about it. I want to be like that granite.

Details below. Enjoy.

TM8018 Leaning into the Fog - close-up from center showing near outcrop with quartz veins and distant boulders intermixed with seaweed

TM8018 Leaning into the Fog – close-up from center showing near outcrop with quartz veins and distant boulders intermixed with seaweed

TM8018 Leaning into the Fog - close-up with salt water pool

TM8018 Leaning into the Fog – close-up with salt water pool

An Indeterminate Number

TM8684 An Indeterminate Number 36x36 oil on panel

TM8684 An Indeterminate Number 36×36 oil on panel

Numbers fascinate me – but in a visual way. Like the impact of quantity juxtaposed with uniqueness. I don’t intend to count the stones in this painting, but I have caressed each one with a brush countless times. First it was drawing each stone, placing it in position with great care for its context and neighbors. Then it was layers of glazing and scumbling with a badly split brush. Finally more glazes to add nuances of color  – dark/light, warm/cool, rough/smooth. The last touch was “sprinkling” tiny leaves into the cracks, both to add color and diversity – and because they were there. As I worked on the individual stones they became personalities. I made sure to include some lucky stones. The painting is primarily inspired by visits to Quoddy Head State Park in Lubec, Maine. Detail below. Enjoy.

TM8684 An Indeterminate Numver - close-up from left of center showing stone texturesshowing

TM8684 An Indeterminate Numver – close-up from left of center showing stone textures

Note – my large stone paintings usually take years to finish (in between working on other paintings), so hallelujah!