Return to Bass Rocks

TM9109 A Day at Bass Rocks #48 7×7 oil on paper

TM9110 A Day at Bass Rocks #49 7×7 oil on paper

Bass Rocks, in Gloucester, Massachusetts, is a favorite subject for many artists. Not only is it strikingly rugged, but it’s easy to get to. Setting up to paint on those jagged rocks is a problem. Many artists manage it quite nicely, but for me, I’d rather stand there and imagine painting it, then take lots of photos. Back at the studio, I paint – no wind, rain, or sunburn. These two studies from low tide show the fissures and abrasion caused by the relentless seas. Stubborn rocks, stubborn sea, and I guess stubborn me. I love figuring out these little paintings. Enjoy.


On the Second Day

TM9047 On the Second Day 36×40 oil on panel

Why the second day? On the first day, so many expectations need to be filled and realized – hopes, fears, wishes. On the second day, expectations have receded into the background and one can see what is actually there, begin to settle in to the moments that are offered, see the gorgeous reality as it presents itself – forget everything else. I like the second and third and fourth days best.  Enjoy.

Nothing Less, Nothing More

TM9048 Nothing Less, Nothing More 36×60 oil on panel

I think of the beginning –  air, water, land – and that sound. So primal and so eternal. It is the simplicity of these three elements interacting that intrigues me. Endless permutations and configurations, governed by precise rhythms. I can lose myself in the intricacies, my arm following the curve of a wave, my face feeling the imagined spray. Working with brush, roller, and paint I can share the moments.

Technical painting notes: The painting began with a roll-up of dark blue oil paint on the white, primed panel. I used solvents and linseed oil to manipulate the paint, spritzing the surface with droplets of the solvent then re-rolling the surface to create the impression of layered, active, water. A small amount of burnt umber was rolled into the foreground to suggest the beach. When this base layer was dry, I began refining the structure of the waves using traditional brush techniques and translucent pigments. Layers of transparent glaze were interwoven with the brushwork to create depth and luminosity. I experimented with spattering droplets of thinned white paint or solvent into the glaze to suggest spray along the wave’s crest, and used spattered and rolled white paint int he foreground to suggest the foam (air) in the restless water.

Song for a Blue Horizon

TM9025 Song for a Blue Horizon 36×54 oil on panel

There are days when all I want is to watch the waves roll in – the hypnotic sequence of ever-changing movement soothes the spirit in troubled times. There are other times when I want to revisit those wave-filled days by painting them. The action of painting the waves, pulling their forms from a loosely gestured background, requires a degree of focus that eliminates everything else that might be happening around me. It offers another kind of solitude – part intellectual, part intuitive. To paint the wave I have to pretend to be the water, rising as the shore comes to meet me, then slipping across the undulations of sand  in lace-like patterns. It is the imagination meeting gravity and the physics of water – such a delightful intersection to inhabit. Enjoy.


Two aspects – one painting from a foggy day, the other bringing back the blue. Enjoy.

And then it started to clear…

Of course the storm leaving has its own charms, with those big rolling waves.


Busy Skies


We’ve had some stormy weather lately, and the skies say it all. I used a palette knife and Winsor Newton Alkyd Impasto medium to capture the rough seas and clouds. Enjoy.