There was a dense fog Tuesday morning. I went back to my favorite ledge. After drawing a few sketches, I decided to paint the same pier from last year since its the only thing I could see clearly in the fog.
I am very excited to be back in Stonington to paint for a week. It is always a challenge at the beginning of the week, for one can easily get distracted from picturesque sceneries in every corner. On the first day, I decided to go back to a familiar lobster co-op building which I have painted a few times over the years. Since every painting of this building in the past has been an iconic painting, I wanted to change the composition this time. Therefore, I decided to introduce other surrounding elements into the composition.
The pier is fascinating to me, since the pillars underneath and the light that comes from behind create an abstract space. I extended the rocky wall in the foreground to get away from the past iconic composition. However, it became the most problematic area as I did not wanted it to be another vertical band just like the pier. It ended up becoming a L shaped wall leaving some space between it and the pier. At the end of the day, I was pretty happy with the painting. There are a few minor changes necessary to bring it close to complete but that is for another day.
I have been painting this pier from the ledge since 2009. There is something about this place that I crave to visit and paint every year when I am in Stonington, Maine.
As I sit down on the ledge; I would turn around and notice in every corner an inspiration for painting – lobster boats float quietly, little islands and piers break the horizon and the houses in a distant hills would stand tall. The sound of the water’s rise-and-fall and the cries of seagulls are rhythmic and musical, while the view the ledge’s covering and uncovering from the water and the hill’s appearing and disappearing through the fog are mysterious and magical. It’s poetic.
Designing the postcard for my upcoming show made me realize that I have painted this pier a few times since 2009. Looking back at these works, I noticed that each time the pier in my painting looks a little different. I decided to reflect on the changes in these paintings.
This earliest work in 2009 is quieter, colors are harmonious. It is a more realistic view of the pier compared to my recent work. The painting has influence from my watercolor experience. The range of colors and their values are much narrower. The drawing is very close to the real pier as I used to meticulously draw what I see.
Instead of faithfully copying from observation, I started to edit my work with more analysis. For instance, the right side of the pier ended up with fewer pillars and the buoys were added from somewhere else. Colors became bolder and richer in 2011. I started to use more black. Values were also fuller. Even though colors were still harmonious but brush strokes became more noticeable and substantial.
Last year I went back to the same ledge and painted the pier again. Since I have been painting a lot of townscapes for the past few years in Northampton and other places in Massachusetts, the architectural elements became the focus in the composition of the painting. I have become much more comfortable with adding my own voice to the painting. For instance, in the painting the green lawn became a mysterious geometric shape, and the water and the wall would blend in seamlessly to surround the pier. Besides playing with architectural designs, colors have also gotten bolder and more personal.
Looking at these three paintings, I noticed that I have taken more liberty with my own work now. I no longer need to faithfully copy what’s out there.