Beach, Boats and Birds

I am finally getting to my report on the Florida trip. I stayed two weeks with my fellow artist friend, Mary Crawford Reining, at her home on Marco Island. The first painting stop we made was to the public beach known as Tiger Tail. Something to do with how the river bends around the land. Anyway, the weather was chilly and the sun was blinding, so we sought a sheltered spot to paint.

The painting is the one at the top. This was the toddler’s playground, and it was as deserted as I painted it. The ratio of toddlers to adults in this part of Florida must be very small. Later, some older kids came along and tried to use the equipment, but too late for me to capture. And if I had tried to insert them in the painting, they would have looked outsized.

I was attracted to this scene by the patterns made by the shadows on the ground. I did not succeed in making those shadows “pop” the way it happened for me on the scene, but my effort made for a good warmup exercise. I would be doing a lot more of the palm trees in the next 13 days, and every time, I would try a slightly different technique. I THINK they get better, but maybe not. I was also experimenting with fuzzing in a background to suggest activity without actually portraying it. You’ll notice some of that in the next painting too.

For our second painting foray, we sought out boats. At the Rose Marco Island Marina, Mary led me to her favorite boat–an orange catamaran crafted by hand. She had painted this boat from its other side several times in the past and talked to the owner/maker at least once. Since there is nothing like orange to dress a painting, I happily followed her lead.

By the time I left Florida 12 days later, I had painted another boat scene with the same kind of pilings, and was very glad that I had asked someone what the heck those posts were called anyway. It’s really hard to talk about something when you don’t have the right vocabulary for it.

While at the marina, I got some of the best bird close-ups of my life. I had put the long lens on my camera (and I kept it on the whole two weeks after that because of these birds) and discovered that it didn’t really matter that the focus was shaky. The light was good enough to capture a clear image despite the shakiness of my camera. The first bird shown below is some kind of plover–black-bellied in winter plumage, I think; the pink glow on his chin and belly are reflections from the red awning the bird is standing on.

After the plover, I spotted a cormorant hanging out by the orange catamaran. I always thought cormorants were black. Not so! Can you tell how reddish his neck is? The second picture shows it better.

While loitering around the marina office I was visited by this egret first on the red awning . . .

. . . and then the best of all, the incomparable vision of the wind tousling its feathers. So THAT’s why it is called the Snowy Egret!

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