One of the tasks of a plein air painting teacher is to locate painting sites. Not only must they have good subject matter, but they must be safe, have sufficient parking, and give access to a bathroom or a quiet stretch of shrubbery. They should be easily accessible to people coming from a wide range of places. Some of my favorites are on the St. George Peninsula.
After being surprised by the overgrowth at Glen Cove a few weeks ago, I decided I should reconnoiter more. Even that doesn’t always work. When I got to Spruce Head yesterday, a bucket truck was parked where I’d hoped to teach, doing something to the power lines. No matter. A little farther along there was ample parking and a different view.
Back in the day, studios at the Art Students League were jammed full of students, to a degree non-New Yorkers would never accept. Needless to say, not everyone had a “good view.” We were expected to make the most of what we had. It was very good training in finding the sublime anywhere.
In general, if you can’t find something to paint, it’s your mind that need adjusting, not the view. That’s not to say that it’s not easier in Maine, where every twist in the road brings something new. But there are many levels of beauty in every scene.
Yesterday, my students all painted variations of a dinghy at rest on the mud flats. It was an easily accessible composition, and it’s what I would have painted. But sometimes when you’re sitting quietly in nature, other things begin to vie with your attention—a rock formation, the shadows formed by a dock. For me, that usually happens about halfway through a painting, when I realize I’m actually more interested in something completely different from where I started.
A heron flew in to fish in the shallows. He spent the whole morning with us.
I currently have three students painting in water-based media. For the teacher, having both oils and watercolor in your class requires turning your brain inside out repeatedly, for the basic way you see and work—light vs. dark—is reversed between them.
Sheryl Cassibry and I did a joint watercolor painting in my sketchbook last week. We took turns painting on it. It was a fun way to explore how the medium works.
My Southern readers will laugh, but even out on Spruce Head, it was just too hot to paint. My car thermometer read 79° F. as I drove back to Rockport. I’m not acclimated to any kind of heat, and standing out in the blazing sun with a strong on-shore breeze, I got a terrific headache.
It wasn’t just me, either. Renee Lammers told me later that it was too hot to paint in Stonington, too. “I think I need a cooling vest,” she said. Maybe she’ll invent one.