Most plein air landscape painters are keenly interested in the weather. It’s not just that we like to avoid getting wet; it’s that the sky is as much a part of a place as are the rocks, trees and water. I’m a fan of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Hourly Weather Forecast Graph. It gives me an idea of whether the sunset will be grand and how quickly my easel will blow over.
Weather gives paintings a sense of place. Here in Maine, storms rage and break and calm down like a teenager’s moods. There is a hazy, milk-glass quality to the early morning light, but when the sky is clear, it is intensely blue and shadows are deep. The irregularity of the coast creates a multitude of microclimates. And, of course there is the fog, such as that curling around my toes this morning.
Compared to Maine, an overcast sky in Rochester, NY is the meteorological equivalent of cosmic grief: deep and reproachful. It can go on and on, obliterating light and shadow. A friend visited from Edinburgh last November and pronounced it worse than Scotland.
Where I come from, “mackerel sky, rain is nigh,” is pretty much always true. I’ll have to see if that holds here in Rockport. It takes years to learn a place’s weather patterns.
NOAA is one of the agencies represented in the National Weather Center at the University of Oklahoma. What better place for weather than Oklahoma, with its terrifying tornadoes, brilliant light, flat horizons and mercurial changes?
The Weather Center hosts an international juried weather Biennale. The 2015 show, Art’s Window on the Impact of Weather on the Human Experience, just closed, but I’ve already written to ask them to put me on their mailing list for 2017. I hope my fellow plein air painters do the same, because we work closer to weather than any other artists.
Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me on the Schoodic Peninsula in beautiful Acadia National Park in August 2015. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops! Download a brochure here.