Friday, March 14, 2008

Sand Harbour Painting

Sand Harbour (ii)
Oil on Panel

Given that I don't ordinarily enjoy painting outdoors, because of the distractions, it's crucial that my subject is engaging enough to keep me motivated in the right way. Sometimes a bit of background noise is a good thing - like having the radio* on - since my mind wonders in the deafening silence.

So back to Sand Harbour. On day one (this painting and yesterday's are day 1) the background noise was pretty much the gentle lapping of Lake Tahoe on the sand a few inches from my feet. It was a strange day for light, the clouds occasionally covering the sun entirely, but mostly just creating a diffused, pre-storm illumination.

I put down a layer of green first in these paintings, which is unusual for me as I'm not a green fan. What I've been doing of late is sketching the composition, and then applying a thin layer of the colour I anticipate to be the overall 'influence' of the painting - whether it be a 'accent', like a bright red/purple fruit in an otherwise white still life, or as in this case, the emerald - blue of the lake, made yellower by the sky and transcient sunlight.

I actually thought I'd messed up big time with these paintings at first, until Bonita came over to see how I was doing and I took a few steps back from what I thought was a nonsensical oily mess. Strange how something you've spent years doing automatically can be so easily forgotten in a new environment - moving away from your subject gives you perspective. Not just in art, in life generally. That's why travelling is such an amazing tool for reevaluation.

I was also very conscious of painting with others for the first time since my student days. I'd been admiring Donald's painting, almost complete to my eye by the time we arrived to meet him there. He's got a great portable painting set up - lightweight, compact and organised. He likes to work seated because of back problems, so was able to easily adjust the telescopic legs on his outdoor easel/paintbox and have everything ready to go in seconds. The paintbox doubles as an easel - I believe they call them French Easels. Bonita had an equally impressive apparatus. She works in pastels, and had a lidded box with an attachment like a drywall palette on it, which you slot into the telescopic legs and hey presto! open the box with all the pastels neatly organised inside.

In the end I was actually really pleased with the outcome of these two paintings. Maybe the pressure of doing something I wouldn't be too embarrassed to show the others made me dig a bit deeper. The granite rocks are so cool it really made the composition for me, being a rock person. I also love diagonals, they add a sense of underlying movement and drama to a painting.

Whilst I was painting, some guys started playing guitar and singing nearby. I couldn't see them, but could hear enough to deduce that they were writing a new song. It was a lovely moment of creative synchronicity, and the sounds weren't distracting at all, and I enjoyed hearing them working out guitar riffs and vocal melodies. It was a perfect day.

Unlike day 2, when the Tommy Hilfiger shoot was coming together. Loud New Yorker cries of "Yo yo yo yo!!" every 5 minutes...

Photos by Donald Neff

* BBC Radio 2 Mostly! Radcliffe & Marconi, Russel Brand, and Jonathan Ross are my favorites.


Donald said...

What a great couple of days painting!!

The easel I was using is called a Soltek. It was designed and made by Jim Wilcox, considered one of the best landscape artists in the country. They are kind of pricey, but well built. You can find out more here --

Also, on my website is a list of my supplies, althgouh somewhat geared to traveling by motorcycle -- .

Shelley Hocknell Zentner said...

thankyou Donald, I'll check it out!