East Coast Excursions
Ocean Rock Light & Shadow, Bicheno 35 x 45 (oil on canvas board)
Tassie summer is in full swing when camper vans outnumber penguins and rays of blistering hot sun make the chilly winter seem a distant memory. Over the past couple months I've made a few painting excursions up the east coast to begin a fresh batch of paintings I hope to show in upcoming exhibitions for 2021.
Lets dig our toes in powdered sands ofquartz, body surf amidst transparent seas and swaying kelp, and attempt to wrap our brushes around the curvaceous granite boulders shelled in diverse species of lichen. A combination of these features and more contribute to a truly unique landscape that is as much challenging and dynamic as it is beautiful and inspiring.
After three years of living and painting in Tasmania my enthusiasm and excitement for setting up the ol' easel to paint some lichen clad rocks remains strong. I believe this could be due to strong aesthetic contrasts to the stretch of coastline in California where I grew up. The beaches I ventured during my childhood and into and my nascent years of plein air painting were primarily composed of stratified shale and sandstone cliffs stretching 10-20 meters of vertical stance piercing into the sand. The sedimentary makeup of shale and sandstone easily erode and weather under the foot of humans, gusts of wind, and crashing surf. This often results in a more noticeable terrestrial fluctuation. For example an overhanging cliff presented one evening may fall the next, washed out and dispersed through the sea in the ephemeral state of inevitability.
On the other hand Tassie's coastal granite boulder fields render time motionless, ancient, and weighted. The rocks I hop over now date back millions of years and will continue to sit quietly for millions to come. The individual placement of some of these rocks can be so peculiar I often find myself laughing out loud in awe of their stoic presence yet clever ability to jest at the idiosyncrasies of life. I feel the abundance of quartz in the granite's composition and their rounded shape allows them to absorb and reflect light to a higher degree than other rocks, emitting an ever-changing interaction of warm and cool colors. I often think how the semi reflective surface of the granite must radiate and absorb light in a similar effect to the haystacks that caught the eyes of Monet in Giverny. The longer I sit and observe the landscape the more the landscape reveals itself to me, and often through delicate nuances of beauty.
Low tide crystal isthmus to Diamond Island
Diamond Island is the iconic landmark sitting just off the coast from the northern entrance of Bicheno. Its east facing granite composition welcomes the rising sun and houses numerous species of seabirds, from terns to penguins and gulls to oystercatchers. On a super low tide, a thin spine of sand emerges connecting the island to Redbill Beach. This particular afternoon was the lowest tide I've encountered in the area and struck the opportunity to explore the islands rocky circumference.
Stretching out the fingers in preparation for a sketch.
Pen and ink sketch around DI's backside.
When there's a bit of a hike involved and conditions unsure I'll suss out a location equipped with my sketchbook and pens. Recently I've been using 08 and 04 Microns along with some larger chisel tipped Faber-Castells for the areas that need more filling in. This is a good way to tread lightly and explore different locations, hopefully discovering areas of interest that beckon for return. I made the drawing above of a shallow granite slab doing its best impersonation of an origamist folding over pulsing groundswell from the deep. Over the past couple years my ink drawings have been focused on capturing the texture, patterns, and dynamism of the environment before me. I try to breakdown what I see into compartments and to study and identify recurring patterns in these compartments, then interpret those patterns through linework. As the microcosmic compartments fill in they begin to unite into the composition as a whole.
With the turn of the tide and a setting sun I decided to head back to the car.
The next day offered another low tide in the afternoon. I headed out to the same location as the day before, only this time with my paints.
One of the major challenges of painting en plein air is capturing the conditional movements of a location. In the image above, the single cloud I included in my painting that initially caught my eye had subsided to the small tuft in the top right corner of the photo and the sun had set behind the mountain range to the west casting shadow over the crashing waves that 20 minutes prior were illuminated in feathery arcs of gold.
After setting up I tend to work fairly quickly, blocking in key features and colors that I feel convey the essence or emotive reaction I experience during that moment. This results in a foundational oil sketch that depicts enough information to later bring a painting into full fruition. By adding impressionistic qualities gathered while sitting and observing I can explore a more stylistic approach to painting. Under favorable conditions it will normally take me 1-2 hours to make a painting in the field. I feel this amount of time allows for immersion into the environment but also sets a beginning and end in pursuit to capture a stream fleeting moments. I believe a successful painting has the ability to encapsulate a period of time, the changing light, sounds, smells, and through creativity and style to convey that experience to an audience.
More rocky inspiration and surfacing Bull Kelp seen up near Humbug Point, Binalong Bay.
A coastline filled with insurmountable beauty keeps a wandering painter coming back for more. Morning light, Binalong Bay.
Sunrise paint near Dora Point, Binalong Bay 1
Here I'm quickly trying to capture the warm highlights of the orange lichen covered rocks contrasted by their lengthy blue cast shadows. Orange and blue are complementary colors and when set beside each other harmonize in a vibrational communion. I used this interaction of warm and cool as the structural framework for the paintings compositional harmony.
Sunrise paint near Dora Point, Binalong Bay 2
By this time the warmth of the sunrise atmosphere had cleared and the cooler elongated shadows in the for-ground had shrunken. From here I'll begin to emphasize my darks and lights, experiment with depth, and add secondary characteristic features as details. For the most part the study above has enough compositional framework and emotive qualities to help guide me to completion.
The finished piece "Bathing in Sunrise, Dora Point" 30x70cm (oil on canvas)