Yes, I’ve been spending lots of imaginative time in Lubec recently, but there are other subjects. This week I finally finished a smaller landscape that has been in the works for quite some time. The painting, begun last fall, was progressing well. In fact, it was almost done when I ran into a design problem – how to integrate the water (and its strong horizontals) with the cliff (equally strong verticals). I mulled it over for a few months, and nearly sanded the panel clean. Working on the foggy Lubec paintings gave me the idea of incorporating morning fog as a compositional device to integrate the two parts of the painting. Besides, I just love foggy mornings with all their sense of mystery. I think it worked. Now, the sunlight cutting across the tops of the trees as matched by the light of the fog rising. The ineffable quality of the fog also balances the tough strength of the granite. Enjoy.
A slippery subject – shifting tides and clouds sliding through blue, nothing firm for a foot – it’s all in motion. Although this painting is based on a view near the lower end of the Bay of Fundy, it reminds me of time spent in the everglades, another watery world with fabulous skies. But the Bay of Fundy is cooler, and the twice daily disappearing sea with its bed of shellfish is more inviting, at least for me. 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.
It’s all there – an energetic tide, clear skies, and plenty of fresh air. Sometimes a painting need only be a reflection of the best nature has to offer. …and large enough to send you there. Brisk Morning is that simple and direct. Enjoy!
I love watching the glow that comes with dawn. It’s another in between – not day yet, but certainly not night. In Near Dawn I wanted to explore the mystery of the night sea contrasted with first light and the way that glow of warmth works its way down to the rolling waves. I also wanted to play with building textures and nuances into the water – unexpected bubbles to suggest that this place is very much alive, that there is much more you can’t see – might never see. And that’s ok, as long as you can acknowledge it. Enjoy.
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.
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.
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.
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.