A sunny day back in the spring. I was perched rather precariously on a large rock with my setup. It doesn’t look too bad in the photo, you’ll just have to trust me on that! 😉
The sea looks different every time …and the scudding clouds and the distant mountains too. Looking at a plein air painting always takes me back to the feeling of being in that place at that time, with the feel of the breeze and the smell of the ocean. Looking at this I just remembered I was visited by sea lions while I was painting this one. If they had come much closer, I would have packed up but they stayed down on the rocks off to the right of the frame of this painting. It was pretty magical.
A pleasant day in late March. The local buffleheads were out – that’s a kind of black and white duck. Plein air painting can be such a wonderful way to connect with the world. Looking at a painting I have done in nature always takes me right back to that moment.
Tom wrote a haiku for this painting celebrating spring …and buffleheads!
bufflehead breezes wander down island narrows ruffling spring waters
Early in September I went out with my gear and found another local beauty spot. It was really hot that day! I was glad to find a bit of shade to set up in. The challenge as usual with plein air painting was to catch the light quickly – as well as the colour of the water and the shapes and locations of the clouds before everything changes. The result is less detailed but fresher and more dynamic than working from a photo.
Here is Tom’s poem which at first seems to be for another scene but wait for it – the final couplet tells the tale.
In summer gales these waters roil as wind and tide and waves contend for who shall make the sailor’s toil the worst. And who shall best unmend the flapping canvas, spliced up rope, a bimini not made to cope with gusts that come from angles all around the compass. Masts might fall as waves come in from every point. The bow is bounced, the stern is slewed, the sky with clouds ascudding’s strewed as the sea tests every joint. But in the calm it lies serene as if those storms were never seen!
This is a plein air painting from August. The sun was high and warm reflecting back all kinds of glorious colours in the water. I captured a couple of sailboats at anchor as well as a few floating markers. The mountains of the mainland are in the distance. I have a lovely memory of the day when I look at this.
Tom wrote a thoughtful poem that speaks of times long gone the results of which still impact us today.
Upon a time a Spaniard passed this way anchoring and sending out a brace of boats to sound the waters all around the quiet bay where otter, seals, and cod could still be found. The shore was all alive with other eyes that watched the strange great ships and wondered where they had first tasted of sea. What skies had witnessed their emergence from their lair? Dark ravens cocked and turned upon the wind Dark rhymes were brewing in the human heart Dark beneath the summer sky the sins of darkness drove the worlds apart. The ships sailed on, left chaos in their wake and broken words that promises forsake.
Another plein air piece from July. There is a wonderful park along the ocean that I hope to paint many more times. The mood of the sky and water is different every time. This day, the tide was somewhat low showing shallow rocks extending out from shore. A leaning tree, some wave action and a calm sky complete the scene.
Tom wrote another haiku for this one encapsulating in words my memory of painting that afternoon.
somewhere to the south beyond warm summer mists passage to the sea
Wow – what a long beautiful summer evening that was! I painted this en plein air from the deck of our sailboat just a couple of days off the solstice. I thought I would get some wonderful sunset colours but I would have had to wait longer than I felt like. Anyway, the subtle tones are lovely too, I think.
Tom wrote a haiku with an appropriately Zen feeling for this one!
ten thousand years hence
this long summer evening light
will still be here now
The world has changed a lot in a few short weeks …weeks that have felt very, very long. I want to continue posting images that reflect joy and beauty as I see it, but there are obvious challenges given the situation.
After the lockdown started where we are, it took a week or so for me to get into a headspace where I could start painting again. What came out was not a specific view, but reflected both the landscape here and my feeling of how surreal the unchanged local beauty seems in this context as well as the feeling of connectedness within separation of this time. This painting was not an alla prima piece. I kept coming back over several days layering paint until I achieved something close to the vision I had.
Tom as usual responded to the painting with a deeply beautiful poem.
Trees at Twilight
Behind the trees a secret lies
that whispers on the evening light
that speaks of other times and skies
before the day becomes the night…
as brightness falls the air is still
behind the forest, where the will
of Nature rules the tides and time
to make of this a place sublime
where the truth that can’t be spoken
drifts across the twilight sea
dipping deep to set us free
of all our yesterdays unbroken.
These silent sentinels behold
more beauty than is known or told.
We went for a walk on New Year’s Day in a park by the ocean. There were a number of others out taking advantage of the pleasant day on a holiday as well with lots of shared smiles and well-wishes for the New Year.
This was a bit of an experiment. I knew that I wanted to paint the scene and took several photos but I wasn’t sure if any were quite right. Half way through painting it, I thought – that’s not working! The composition had looked interesting in a small photo but in the painting instead of drawing me in, I was just aware of the vast expanse of boring foreground. Adding more detail and texture to the grass, rocks and logs seems to have been enough to solve that problem and I like it now. Having some small figures in the scene gives a sense of scale and reminds me of traditional Chinese landscape paintings where there is almost always a figure going about their life in the distance.
Tom’s poem expresses how well he knows the coasts and seasons here.
These are the crooked roads we walk
wet, muddy, by the shore
where trees are bent by slow incessant summer winds
and empty winter gales.
Their cousins lie in serried ranks
along the rocky shore
tossed by tides and angry waves from distant isles
come to rest at last.
We walk on in silence strong
secure upon this shore
while beneath the winter scudding clouds the sea
lies calm in patient peace.
Here’s a quick piece from a recent walk. No matter the weather (it was a grey overcast day) it is still beautiful here …and every day is different – the light, the water …everything. I limited my palette a bit more than usual by removing all my shades of reds.
The sea is calm today:
beneath the surface silent currents sweep
through narrows, over reefs
far down into the darkling deeps
while high above the sky keeps faith
with us. We walk the shore
in beauty as the light
of Winter Solstice softly peeps
through the crowded clouds that paint the sky.
There is no sadness here
no ignorance of all
the love, the joy, the hope that rules the world.
No leaden certainties constrain this life
to pain or darkness
though even now poor distant armies fight
beneath this sky, far off across the sea.
Stand by me now, my love,
on this cold day when light is short
for life is long
and in the Ocean’s silence is the song.
Another painting inspired by this past summer’s trip to Desolation Sound, a beautiful place of infinite variety.
Tom’s poem celebrates the the place, the wildlife and the light …and the experience of being there. (Note that “nightjar” is another name for a nighthawk, an insectivore that darts about in the late evening catching its dinner.)
Clouds that wander high and bright
above the forest of the night
where nightjars nest and eagles fly
beneath the ever-changing sky
over waters cold and deep
where octopi and fishes sleep
and dolphins dance while whales progress
as summer breezes soft caress
the trees and islands, rocks and sea,
where in the cove we are set free
from common care and daily grind,
easing soul and freeing mind
to wander wide and ever bright
beyond the forest of the night
where nightjars nest and eagles fly
beneath the changeless evening sky.