December 28, 2009

Red Beach Monday Morning
9" x 12" oil on panel

Red Beach Surf
11" x 14" oil on panel

Chance of Rain Red Beach
8" x 10" oil on panel

These images are of studies done at Red Beach, Vieques in recent days. The idea has been to convey an impression of the scene quickly. I'm still using previously used panels that have been coated with white gesso. I'm loving the rough surface this provides, although I'm noticing that the photos of these paintings don't quite capture the lusciousness of the thick paint I'm using. I've been returning to more or less the same place to paint -- it's easy to get to and there's shade. Plus, it's one of the best swimming beaches.

Roo is leaving the island tomorrow for chilly Michigan and I'll be exploring a more committed art routine for the next several months. I'm anticipating a continuation of the morning paint session followed by some writing and siesta time midday with an optional afternoon session. Distraction is, of course, the great challenge and while it's wonderful to have a wi-fi connection this year, it's always tempting to surf the Net rather than painting the surf. We'll see how it goes.

I've no plans to show my work on Vieques this season except for Open Studios I'll hold at the end of January, February and March (and maybe April). In part this is to give myself the freedom to develop the work in directions that might not be so immediately sellable. (I found myself wondering this morning if "people" would like my newer work less than the style for which I've become known in the past several years.) I'm sure many artists hesitate to grow for fear of their work becoming less appreciated. I know my struggle is to value the work for its own sake, for my process in creating it, and not for what others think of it or will pay for it. Great story in the NY Times about a 94 year old woman who finally "made it" after 60 years of working at her painting. Much for me to learn in this department!

December 18, 2009

View from Red Beach
8" x 10" oil/panel
Back to Red Beach this morning, thinking about what it means to paint abstractly. I love images where a few deft strokes convey the essence of a scene. When "looking" deepens it becomes "seeing." Shapes define meaning while details take a hike. I find this happens spontaneously when I am in a carefree but focused state of being.
This morning I returned to the same spot where I painted yesterday. The sky was dark as some rain clouds passes overhead. A brilliant rainbow arched over the sea and surrounding hills. It would have been difficult to capture this eye candy and, besides, my eye was drawn to the sun as it hit the cliffs across the water opposite.
The thought of painting abstractly this morning became more a concept dominating my experience and not what the painting wanted. Plus -- call me indulgent -- I just love making those brushstrokes! Still, this piece is not overworked with detail; hopefully, there's just enough. I especially like the sun effect on the simply painted cliff.
On the way home, after my swim, an idea for a book of paintings and prose occurred to me. A comparison of Vieques and Northern Michigan, the two places to which I've committed my artistic heart. Many people who travel here straddle two worlds of heat and cold -- What do they have in common? How do they differ? It seems a whole new body of artwork is brewing in me. Yes!

December 17, 2009

Palm Shade
8" x 10" oil/panel

Up early this morning and out the door by 7:30 with a thermos of coffee and pastries from La Dulce Esperanza in hand. The commute to Playa Caracas wasn't too bad today -- passed one other car on the 10 minute drive. No one else at the beach, either, so no distractions. After my breakfast, I walked the familiar terrain to see what would catch my eye.

This morning it was shadows cast on the sand by the nearby coconut palms. My work was to render the contrast between sun and shade and to do it before the sun got too high. By ten a.m. my subject surrendered to the light; I packed up and submitted myself to the sea. A bit easier to get in the warm Caribbean than chilly Lake Michigan and the water is definitely "salted" here. (My favorite t-shirt slogan from this summer: "Lake Michigan -- Unsalted.") It's fine to swim up close to what I been painting in the distance.

I'm enjoying making these smaller paintings. Thick paint applied with a loose touch. A nothing-to-lose attitude that means not sweating the small stuff -- details I would have obsessed about a year ago -- a gentle approach. On good days like today, if I manage only the commute, the work seems to complete itself.

December 13, 2009

Sun Light (Vieques)
8" x 8" oil on canvas

This is the first painting of the winter season here in Vieques. My intention is to be here through April. But if 2009 has taught me anything, it's that all plans are subject to radical change. So, in truth all I can really know is that I am here for now, grateful for the sunlight that so drenches the verdant landscape.

When I first arrive in a place with many painting opportunities, I often start by working close to home. It gives me a chance to see how my equipment is working and what supplies I may have neglected to bring with me. Yesterday, as a zillion mosquitoes attacked my legs, I realized I'm missing the bug spray. On the bright side, I felt strongly encouraged to paint quickly and I was pleased with the looseness of the work. I particularly like the quality of the shadows on the side of the sunny wall.

Will I paint today? I don't know. As I'm still in grief mode following my mother's passing last May, I'm just feeling my way through each day as gently as possible. It is good to paint, to affirm the life still present in me; perceiving the beauty in my surroundings is as much a gift to me as to anyone who enjoys my work. Yet, I've been known to "should" myself into doing when it might be more appropriate to be, thus destroying the joy of creating. So, today I will be sensitive to life's leadings and see where that takes me.

Enjoy the Sun Light!