"Quoddy Cliffs I" 9x12, oil
The other day, we went out to West Quoddy Head State Park in Lubec, the easternmost point in the States. There's a lighthouse, but I avoid painting it. ("Why?" deserves its own blog post.) Usually, I'm drawn to the 150-foot cliffs and the challenge they present. Although the jumble of cracks and planes seem to defy a painter's need to simplify, you can see the underlying pattern if you try. I spent a couple of overcast hours painstakingly observing one prominent cliff, working especially on the subtle colors of the rocks. I felt it was important to accurately observe. The overcast light gave me steady shadows, so I didn't have to rush.
Then the sun broke out. The cloud shadows speeding over the cliffs killed any chance of a leisurely approach, and I had to move on to a different painting. Now, observing anything accurately is tiring work, and I wasn't up to doing that again. So I took a more intuitive approach, focussing less on exact form and more on capturing light effects and a sense of atmosphere. (This is how I most often work.) Also, rather than mix color carefully on my palette, I chose to mix directly on the surface. That's a gut-wrenching way to paint, especially if you're a very methodical painter. But you paint yourself into a corner, and then you find you can paint yourself out of it. It was like a carnival ride, putting down a too rich, too dark blue for the sky, and then stirring a dollop of white into it to make it work.
I'm curious: Which of the two paintings seem to work best? (By the way, the second is not the exact same scene, but a different view of a different rock.)
"Quoddy Cliffs II" 9x12, oil