"As I gaze upon the sea! All my romantic legends, all my dreams, come back to me."
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"Towards Trinity Bay"
Oil On Panel
Last September I explored Newfoundland, Canada for 16 days over two weeks. This land really does take your breath away. Most of the population of the island is located near the water. The sea is everywhere, around every turn in the road, in the air with the smell of brine and in your ears with its ceaseless, hypnotic waves crashing on the rocks. My intent was to gather reference for a show of paintings about this very special place. 1,300 pictures later, I had no shortage of ideas for paintings and some beautiful memories as well.
Gazing out on the water as the sun set, contemplating packing my suitcase and going through the rituals of closing up the pretty cabin on the Northeast shores where I had been staying, suddenly, silently, this boat floated into view. I will never forget how quietly it approached, and then it was there all of a sudden, like an alien spacecraft gliding through the sky, all aglow. I was transfixed by the confluence of colours that melded together all at once: the deep and light blues, the wet-grey slate of the rock, the weak honey hues of the setting sun, the far off lights of Badger's Quay or even Greenspond (I am not sure) twinkling across the bay. It was a visual symphony! I grabbed my camera and shot like a maniac, trying different compositions and capitalizing on every moment of daylight as I was holding the camera by hand which made for tricky shooting in such dim light.
It was then that I recalled that the boat probably belonged to David's nephew, and their destination was somewhere south near Bonavista Bay to fish for mackerel. Apparently the mackerel are brought to the surface by the bright lights, hence fishing at night. I loved how the lights from their boat cut the water with its intensity, balanced the light of the sunset and how it simply floated quietly towards its destination.
Despite its larger size, this painting came together pretty quickly. I used larger brushes and broad strokes, especially in the sky. It is difficult to make something appear diaphanous and airy, especially if you don't always paint in a very detailed manner. I had to find that line again between a more impressionistic application of paint while being able to render mood and emotion in the landscape. Hence the beauty of time and self-analysis to help you stand back and look at what works and what needs more work. I have a tendency towards becoming myopic while I work...so that the forest disappears and I see only one tree at a time. You need and must step back to take it all in periodically.
The skies in Newfoundland are out of this world. The lack of air pollution and the freshness of the environment is conducive to some pretty spectacular openings and closings of days...and I have tried to capture this in the paintings that I have completed so far. The sky figures largely in the spell that the land casts upon people I think. It is our frame of reference for how we orient ourselves; it is a place where we toss our dreams and wishes, and a wise and optimistic counsellor in times of uncertainty. It is like an upside-down well, a rumpled blanket, the forecaster of weather conditions and a constant companion against the gravity that keeps us on terra firma as we explore and discover.
"That pleasure which is at once the most pure, the most elevating and the most intense, is derived, I maintain, from the contemplation of the beautiful."
~Edgar Allan Poe
My solo exhibition of Newfoundland paintings is fast approaching! I hope you can make it out to the show. Here are the details:
Portraits Of Newfoundland
November 5-22nd, 2009
Abbozzo Gallery, Oakville, Ontario
Opening Reception November 6th, 7-10pm