Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Surfing in the studio

Ah, the sea, the sea!

A week or so ago, I was invited to paint with friends at Bald Hill Cliff, Ogunquit, Maine. It's a site that well-known marine painters have visited for close to a century, featuring a sheer cliff, and waves crashing on ledges. A veritable cataclysm of elemental forces, very much a sea symphony.

I declined to go, though, despite the enticement of painting with my friends. For me, the
hullabaloo of the crashing surf is a little overwhelming. I texted one of the friends, saying that the "bang! crash! whoosh!" was decidedly not me.

Instead, I repaired alone to my recent haunt on Deer Island, posts of which you may have seen over the last ten days. No whoosh! Just the occasional annoying jet ski in a "no wake" zone.

Today, wanting to do something different, and being confined to the studio because of the weather---though, truth to tell, it was a welcome respite from all the sunshine we've been having----I decided to have a mini Dead Paintings Society on one of my own canvases. I had a painter friend also painting in my studio, and so I had company just in case I
wanted to shoot myself, or the canvas.

The dead painting was finished about two years ago, and it had a brief exposure at one of my galleries. Although I liked it quite well, it failed to find favor with the discerning public. Eventually, it was returned to me in disgrace. Here's what it looked like on its return:

About a year later----thus a year ago----I decided to lower the horizon, thereby eliminating all the buildings. I was still very fond of the sunken road, and didn't want to monkey with that. But what else to do? Nothing, in fact...until this morning. Here's where it was at 11:00 a.m., Eastern Daylight Savings Time.

Recently I was looking through a book about Frederick J. Waugh, an important, mid-20th century marine painter. Waugh was speaking of the need to understand the sea before one painted it. He remarked that he almost never, except for very small occasional studies, painted the sea en plein air.
I had an excuse! Waugh said I didn't have to deal with the Bang! Crash! Whoosh! He was giving me, and everyone else, permission to paint the sea in the studio! Yippee!
No wind, no glare, no angry seagulls! Instead we could have controlled light, coffee, couch...everything one needs. With Richard Rodgers's score to Victory at Sea on my CD player, I set to work.
After two long hours, this is where I stopped. The fact that I'd failed to heed Waugh's first dictum, that I needed "to know the sea", hadn't seemed so important until I found myself confronted with ten thousand metric tons of surging salt water, right there in my studio.

It was only then that I remembered that there's a reason I paint trees.


  1. Awsome! Life exists after a true "dead experience" . Nice job, and a speedy exersise at that!,

  2. Fascinating! And I agree about the coffee and couch bit.