Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Watch Hill, RI - miniseries quartet

tags:  original pastel painting - new england landscape - beach - lighthouse - original art - oceanscape 

I had to split this next miniseries, now switched to a 1:3 horizontal format, into two days.   It's a radical change in landscape subject:  coastal New England, specifically Watch Hill, RI.  Watch Hill is a quaint little coastal village that is also classified as a National Historical District.  It was one of my favorite places to go when we lived in Mystic, and why I ventured to paint it.  I wrote a post about it back in June, with photos taken during one of our trips there.

Napatree Beach Path
3x9 inches
pastel on reclaimed Colourfix

Napatree Point is a small barrier beach that extends west from Watch Hill, separating Block Island Sound and the Atlantic from Little Narragansett Bay.  For some reason, I've always been drawn to beach paths, especially when the ocean lies out of view, like here.  

Shoreline Patrol
3x9 inches

Gulls.  Noisy, messy and opportunists of any unattended food, they are nonetheless an omnipresent feature of beaches everywhere.   I find myself amused by them.   The original photo was nothing to write home about, but this crop eliminated extraneous detail and turned it into an abstract-like design.  I think this is only the second time I've ever attempted to paint an ocean shoreline (the first attempt went directly into the trash), which is probably pretty clear from this painting!

Beach Rose Fence
3x9 inches

Beach rose (Rosa rugosa) is found throughout the shoreline areas of coastal New England.  Walking along the beach, I saw them covering the outside of this picket fence and thought it was so attractive and representative of the quaint nature of this charming village.  The challenge here was to avoid cloning of the roses (in terms of size, shape and position) and to think in right-brained terms of everything as groups of abstract shapes, overriding the left-brain's attempt to depict them as individual roses, leaves, and formed shadows.   It's about creating an impression for the viewer.

Watch Hill Lighthouse
3x9 inches

I'll be honest here...I usually detest lighthouse paintings.  They conjure up images of kitsch and saccharine, Kincade-esque paintings found in touristy gift shops.  The fact that this is composed of a group of buildings vs. the usual cylindrical lighthouse is what brokered the deal to photograph and then paint it.   The lone gull was in the reference photo, and I decided to keep it.   At least I resisted the urge to add a rose trellis up the lighthouse, eh?

All of these were done on reclaimed Colourfix paper.  If I thought that painting on pristine Colourfix was  unpleasant, painting on this was tedious.  That I was even able to get any small shape to look like its intended form (the gull and lighthouse buildings), let alone at this small size, still surprises me.  

After this, it's back to my comfort zone in the southwestern landscape for a while.


  1. You did just fine with the temptation of the rugosas. Congratulations for surviving the gulls and lighthouses. Also for squeezing value out of what I always find to be a hazy, flat light. Like you, I'm spoiled by the clear air of the Southwest. I often think of the Taos painters (E.I. Couse, et al) and how blown away they must have been when they arrived here.

  2. Thanks, Sam. Yeah, the lighthouse theme...not something I admit to understanding. This will probably be the only one I ever paint. I'm in complete agreement about the hazy, flat light out there...and it's much worse in mid-summer.

    I was talking with a friend of one of my Mystic friends who had visited Santa Fe and/or Taos, and she was horrified by the landscape - it seemed too open, too desolate. Can you imagine? Nope, neither can I. We are planning a Taos trip this spring, and I can't wait!

  3. LOVE the top one. Also love how you suddenly switched to horizontal long skinny ones. Cool. Variety is good.

    Next time you do a lighthouse, be sure to add some little cherubic blond children, a basket of kittens, and a rainbow.

  4. This is much better than my lighthouse painting. Your eye for composition is so good.

    Because I grew up on the coast, the lighthouse is past being quaint, and a part of what I consider normal. Jala's comment is too funny.

  5. Thanks, Jala. Yeah, time to mix it up, and the horizontal format works better for some images.

    Ha ha! Those are awesome additions to ANY painting, but esp. a lighthouse painting. I will be sure and give you lots of credit for any painting I do like that ;).

  6. Hi Casey - thanks. My improved eye for compositions happened after reading dozens of books, studying hundreds of photos and paintings and taking thousands of photos [and I am sure your lighthouse is much better than you think - pic?].

    Lighthouses are cool as local landmarks and for their historical significance (hence their popularity as a subject matter). It's a shame they have become objects of lots of really bad art. If more people would depict them shrouded in fog and gloom, where they truly shine (pun intended), that perception would change.


    I also wanted to compliment you on your Utah image today.


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