Just another lighthouse painting, you may be thinking. Doesn’t even include any surf. Truly, I wasn’t very excited about painting these buildings at first. I explored the nearby Coast Guard station (Point Judith in Rhode Island) and tried other angles on the lighthouse, but there was no view of the sea that included the structures. So I selected the simplest view possible, and hoped to produce a restrained and elegant painting. I think I succeeded.

I began with a Lois Griffel underpainting in ocher, viridian, and burnt sienna; the sky started out bright pink. While I was messing about with the underpainting, a fog rolled in, but I stuck with the plan, keeping in mind the blue sky and shadowed planes as I originally found them.

Including the utility pole and wires was an essential element of the painting–it establishes the scale and distance and balances the composition. Getting the shapes and scale just right becomes critically important when there are only three objects in the painting. I had to do a lot of remeasuring and adjusting. My satisfaction, when I saw it was right, cannot be overstated–I felt like crowing like a rooster.

The most challenging elements were the darkest elements–the top of the lighthouse and the pole and wires. Successful painting is all about getting the right paint in the right spot. I wiped and scraped and covered up until I had those darks showing up where I wanted them and not elsewhere. Palette knife — invaluable!

In case you missed the point, I just love this painting. When it was complete exactly as I had intended, I felt as if I had graduated from whatever level I had been mucking about in, to a more rarefied level–”accomplished artist” perhaps?

However, I didn’t move in there permanently. The next few paintings I did during my recent Rhode Island sojourn tossed me back into the floundering, experimenting, discovering processes, whereby you start with an inspiration and a plan and you finish up with a painting quite different from inspiration. Could still be a good painting. For example:

“Mary’s Smoke Tree” had enticed me for days–it was such a gorgeous thing. I would not have chosen to include the difficult circular drive, but I had to plant my umbrella to the side and something of interest had to fill up that space on the lower left. So this painting, unlike the lighthouse, grew out my love for the subject, and the subject took control over the painting. I love this painting too, and it’s OK that I won’t always be able to control my results. Discovering the painting, when successful, is another kind of joy that sets my heart to crowing (see reference to rooster up above).

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