Sea of Time, 24x24, acrylic on linen, Jan Blencowe, copyright 2011
Breathing a sigh of relief now that I have been able to bring this piece to a unified, harmonious completion. This was a tough one. First off, it's not my usual brand of linen and I didn't think that using Winsor & Newton instead of Centurion LX would be that big of a deal but it was. The W&N is much rougher and more irregular in its fibers. The primer is also much more absorbent, so I felt like it was sucking the life out of my colors, even after repeated gloss isolation coats and layers of spray sealer. While the more matte finish makes it easy to photograph without any glare, this is going to need extra isolation coats and also extra layers of varnish before it has the depth and gloss that I like for the final product.
Second, it's a square. Squares are a more contemporary format for landscapes (which lend themselves much more naturally to a rectangle), and square compositions provide their own set of peculiar compositional challenges. This piece went through many compositional revisions along the way until I was able to make all the elements of the landscape hang together in an harmonious whole without any one element seeming like it was unrelated or isolated from the overall pattern of shapes.
Third, my photo reference was very sparse. The rocks in the upper right are invented as are the rocks in the lower right. The surf is entirely invented from memory and imagination, as the sea was rather calm when the photo was taken.
Fourth, the light was also invented. The photo was taken later in the day with a considerable amount of haze, in the distance which turned everything an indistinct blue-gray. This meant that I once again had to use my imagination and memory to invent a value pattern and a color scheme.
For the color scheme I used this painting Seal Rock, by Albert Bierstadt for inspiration...
I've seen this painting in person many times at the New Britain Museum of American Art and it immediately came to mind as I was beginning my seascape.
Below I had some fun with Photoshop inserting the Bierstadt piece into my own to check for color harmony.
I think you can see how the color schemes are related. Basically, this is a complementary color scheme blue/green and orange/red.
The value structure was difficult for me because I guess I never realized how dark ocean water is compared to the shallow, reflective, still or gently flowing waters of the marsh. My daughter informs me that every meter of water depth selectively absorbs about 45% of the red light and about 2% of the blue light passing through it resulting in a deep blue green color.
I haven't done many seascape paintings, so this is a relatively new genre for me. Its a genre that I have basically avoided because wave action is rather complicated and you need to understand how waves are formed and how they behave to create a convincing portrayal. They also have many, many shifting planes, that require various and subtle value shifts and to top it off water is reflective so those multiple planes also act as mirrors. Is it any wonder I have shied away from seascapes!
I do like creating seascapes though. They give me ample opportunity to compose, and create patterns and colors in a very abstract way. Look for more seascapes from me in the months ahead since I plan to continue to work in this genre for a while.
The little lighthouse in the distance on Mark Island is the Winter Harbor Light. Behind it is Turtle Island. The light house has a fascinating history having been owned by several writers and artists. You can read about the history of the Winter Harbor Lighthouse and it's creative owners here.
Several of the writer/owners of the lighthouse wrote books about the lighthouse or used the setting for their stories.
Winter Harbor and Our Island Lighthouse by Bernice Richmond and The Light in the Tower by Joan Howard all feature the Winter Harbor Lighthouse.
Some of the turbulence in my seascape surely reflects some of the turbulence in my own life right now. Today I came across this quote which leapt off the page at me, probably because I've shed more than a few tears in the past few weeks. I hope you will be blessed by the words of Washington Irving as I was.