Thursday, April 26, 2007

Hiding the Cliche

Rainbows, sunsets and lighthouses! Beautiful things to look at, beautiful things to photograph, but -- to paint? These scenic features, loved by tourists and postcard collectors, are difficult to treat in a painting. Stick in a lighthouse, and you risk making your painting sweet and sentimental.

My neck of the woods features not one but three lighthouses within a few miles of my home. I've been asked to paint these lighthouses, and being the accommodating artist I am, I gladly do so. However, I consider it my mission -- and my challenge -- to hide the cliche. I want to render these features differently and in an interesting way.

This afternoon, I drove out to the Head Harbour Light. It's well-known for the red Swiss cross on its tower. Tourists come from far and near to hike out to the third island where it stands, and it's a difficult hike that must be done only at low tide. (More than one visitor has been stranded by the tide coming in.) I was hoping to do the hike myself so I could do a close-up of the tower, but unfortunately, the recent Nor'easter had damaged a small wooden bridge one must cross and it was roped off with a big sign reading "Danger!"

So, I set myself up in the parking lot and went at it. The trick is to subdue what would be a cliche, and make it an insignificant part of the landscape. Make something else your center of interest, and keep the lighthouse only as a point of reference. In this case, the real center of interest is the rock in the foreground.

Here's my lighthouse. (8x10, oil/panel.) Below is a picture of me painting it. (As always, you can click on the thumbnail for a larger view.)

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