I love setting up a travel stool and looking through the fence into Carter’s yacht yard in Gloucester. This is where they work on the big old boats. They are simply beautiful objects to draw — no polished wood or shiny metal here — this is all rust and grime and sawdust and grease. I can get totally lost in this and if I could spend a week just painting these boats I would.
It’s no fun to paint on a windy day. The paper dries too fast and the easel is always threatening to topple over. That’s why I went up to Gully Point Cove in Rockport early in the morning while the sea was relatively calm. As I painted, the wind slowly picked up until I had to hold the easel down with my free hand. So absorbed was I in trying to complete the painting that I didn’t notice a crowd gathering nearby, hands shielding their eyes, staring and pointing out to sea. When I looked out to see what the commotion was, I witnessed a dramatic kayak rescue. Later in the day I met the young man who had to be picked up by the coast guard boat and I was relieved to find out that he was fine. I guess it’s no fun to kayak on a windy day either.
Wind, water and rocks. There is not much accurate about this sketch and I was going to finish it when I got home (and out of the wind), but decided to leave it as is because it expresses perfectly the day and the setting: wind, water and rocks. I did go back the next day and make a painting of this (which I will post tomorrow) but in some ways I prefer the sketch because it has the energy of that moment. Size: 16″ x 10″.
Today was a day for painting rocks. I managed to get in two paintings, both quarter sheets and since tomorrow is a travel day I’ll save the other one for then. I painted for the first time at Halibut Point State Park last year and it is one of the most special places in this area. One of the things I notice most when I’m there is the quiet. You can hear the ocean waves breaking in the distance but the only sound you hear at the quarry is the birds — mostly gulls along with a few ducks — along with the odd teenager or two, defying the park rules by jumping off the cliffs into the water.
I discovered a great spot today with a perfect view of the yacht club in Rockport and the iconic red Motif # 1 in the background. The perfect spot for me always includes shade and this was even better because I found a high wall to sit on and with space to set up my easel below. It is only now, looking at Motif from my deck that I realize I forgot to add the chimney so that will have to be done tomorrow. You can’t paint an iconic building with a part of it missing. It’s just not right.
What makes a good subject for a sketch? For me it’s always a scene with a lot of contrast. This beach was perfect — those dark rocks, the white surf, and lots of interest in between. If you look closely at the sketch (and I’m not sure if this will be visible from an iPhone photo) you’ll also see some great texture in the rocks. Created thanks to a great gust of wind that blew sand into the wet washes, onto my palette, and all over my brushes. I’m still cleaning it out of the damp paint.
What is the first area you work on when you start a sketch? This is something I’ve been thinking about as I plan my West Coast summer workshops. The answer is not always clear, but for this sketch it was obvious. The centre of interest is the area where I most often begin because it’s where you find the greatest contrasts, the brightest colours and the most detail. The light was quite good on the buoys when I started my sketch so that was the place to begin. And the time I spent sketching there was relatively uneventful except for the five minutes when a police cruiser came speeding towards me — lights flashing — and slammed on his brakes in front of me. Fortunately it was the owner of an illegally parked car he was looking for, not me!