Sunday, February 5, 2012

Making a Mess in the Sunshine

A wonderful thing happened this week, we got a taste of Spring! When you live in a cool, wet, gray climate, the sun coming out to play for several days in a row is cause for celebration. Don't get me wrong, I love the climate here, but warm sunshine in February is a treat.
It also causes me to drop everything in the studio and head out with my plein air setup. I haven't done a lot of plein air painting. In fact, I could probably count the times I have been out on one hand plus an extra finger or two. I tried to get out more last year but I kept getting too cold. I would get caught up in painting and even though I had warm clothes on, wouldn't realize how cold I was until I finished and disengaged. I would be shivering uncontrollably all the way home. With this warm spell, the cold was not a problem. I headed out to my favorite spot, Hug Point.
Hug Point is a spectacularly beautiful spot where the Pacific Northwest forest meets the sea. The cliffs are water-carved sandstone and basalt. Quite dramatic. The only trick is, the tide has to be right to access it. I got to Hug Point just as it was possible to get around the first point. I had two hours until the tide turned. This particular area of Hug Point is dominated a waterfall cascading to the sand and tower of rock. The sun is lower this time of year and the rock glows golden. I placed my easel where I could see the ocean out of the corner of my eye and get a reasonable angle to paint. I never turn my back on the ocean. Sneaker waves, riptides, and floating trees are notorious around here and can and do take the occasional life.
I decided to concentrate on the color relationships and temperature for this oil sketch. I know that I am not up to painting a plein air masterpiece at this stage of my career! The warm winter sun brought out amazing colors in the rock. I made a glorious mess. I did take photographs so that I can do a few refinements in the studio but here is the mess I made:
Hug Point, plein air, oil on canvas 12"x12"
As you can probably tell, I concentrated mostly on the rock tower. The trees above the cliff I hastily suggested while eyeing the incoming tide. I really didn't want to get trapped there. There is a cave on the far left created by the ocean waves. Not a gentle place when the tide is full. Hug Point has a wonderful and interesting history that would make for a very long post. In short though, a bit further along is a road that was carved into the rock.  It used to be the only way to to get to where I live. Even before the road was carved there were (and still are) hand and foothold carved on the cliff by the First Nations people. One had to literally hug the point to cross. Needless to say there are stories of people, horses, and cars that were swept away by rising tides and, I suspect, sneaker waves. The road bed is covered with sea life such as large barnacles. I will post a picture of it another time. Here is a picture taken on a different day when it was gray and misty of the same area as the painting. My husband is standing on the foot of the rock. It gives a sense of scale that is not apparent in the painting.
Hug Point
I was painting from a completely different angle of course!
The final thing I have to show for this week is a sketch from today's life drawing session. I talked them into splitting a 40 minute pose into two 20 minute segments so that we could get a more dynamic pose that the model can hold.
Life Drawing, charcoal on newsprint 18"X24'
I wasn't entirely satisfied with the drawing. I felt it was still a bit too stiff.  I admit I am a bit out of practice. I have been working hard on so many other areas. I will get my skills back up to snuff soon.
I have errands and appointments tomorrow then I will be back at it in the studio...unless the sun decides to favor us with another day or two!

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