The dark stone, wet and slippery with salt splash, is hardly a place for plein air painting, but it provides a wonderful subject to tackle and with a zoom lens on a small field camera. I shoot from a variety of positions, and try different settings, usually on different days. This provides enough information to start a painting. To finish a painting is another matter entirely. That depends on happy accidents, simplification, a basic knowledge of geology, and optimism – at least. Enjoy.
It was inevitable. Each time I start one of these “little babies” I’m transported to a place with fresh air and (sometimes) thundering surf, and I find myself wanting to do it again, and again, and again…….so I do. I learn something new every time, whether its about paint application, paint viscosity, color, layering, and especially taking chances. More to follow! Enjoy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Note – my large stone paintings usually take years to finish (in between working on other paintings), so hallelujah!
The weather pattern always influences my painting. This scene, based on a location in Lubec, Maine, has been on my mind for years. It’s a gentle tidal inlet with outcrops. I’ve photographed it many times, and tried to paint it – never successfully. But with the low light of gray December days upon us, I thought of the fogged-in scene and decided to try again. The cool damp weather felt like Lubec, and the briny smell of the air in Boston reinforced the feeling. This time I think it worked. The quiet painting looks like what I remember – a hushed place with gentle colors, an occasional lap from the incoming waters, and a memory of the coyotes I heard at dawn. Details below. Enjoy.
Technical painting notes: I used a badly splayed old brush to dab color onto the granite, interweaving transparent glazes and dabbing. I also used a crumpled plastic bag to apply thin color and texture.
Favorite places require and deserve repeat visits. So here we are again, on Campobello Island looking out toward a rapidly disappearing Quoddy Head in Maine. Closer, we see the meandering channels of low tide leading to our (somewhat!) precarious perch on this ancient headland. I admit to loving the complex textures of these rocks, and their subtle colors. James McNeil Whistler painted his mother as a Symphony in Gray. I have often watched the opaquely gray fog banks roll in…my version of a symphony in gray. Below is a close-up detail of the granite. Enjoy!