Sunday, March 28, 2010

"Down in the hole" seascapes

I am planning to make little demo paintings to teach seascape. Here is one now. Because of that, I intend to break the project down into very small pieces. What I want to point out tonight, is what I call the "down in the hole" seascape. That's what you usually get when you set your easel up on the shore and paint on location. You end up looking down on the water. The sketch above shows what this looks like.

This creates a number of problems. One of the biggest is that you lose the overlapping of the forms of the waves and rocks. They come out stacked vertically. This also precludes having the waves or their spray break the horizon line. It also gives miles of open water above the wave, and that is not very interesting.
It is great to paint seascape on location, and some places you can get down in the wave action to paint, but because of the aforementioned problem I would rather research the sea on location and then compose the paintings in the studio. When I first started working at solving the seascape problem I did a whole lot of these. Some worked out, but a lot more didn't. Once in a while it would be OK, but you wouldn't want to hang a whole show full of these.


DennyHollandStudio said...

We have such treacherous winter surf here in northern Calif that we've lost at least four waders since January. On the other hand, the ocean is quite beautiful and magnificent, certainly alluring to painters and photographers. The tendency might be to get closer to the waves to alter one's POV for a picture, but be careful! The Atlantic can be just as tumultuous from what I hear.

Philip Koch said...

Well said- the elevation the painter's point of view is right at the heart of what sort of water picture you're going to end up with.

Doing paintings of dry land, being up on a hill looking down at the landscape can be ok if the landscape breaks up into dramatic shifts of value and color. Waves in the distance usually don't so there you have a problem.

Great paintings with high horizon lines can happen, but the painter has to know what they're doing.

Jim Nolan said...

Stape - I think most would find the Curtis book interesting. He has a couple of chapters on design and composition which, given my limited experience, were very helpful. A few colored plates but mostly black and white. On p. 154 he has a section on " Accidents" and says they "...are often superior to anything you might have consciously planned. They're part of the real joy of painting - and, believe it or not, about 80% of marine work is composed of them." I cannot imagine that anyone following this blog would agree.
I have another book of his "Color in Outdoor painting" in which he describes his color pool method using 32 problems to be solved. I thought it somewhat unusual. These two books together with Gruppe's on Brushwork and Color, and Strisik's on Landscape Painting each have one thing in common - they are edited by Charles Movalli. I recall in one of your blogs last fall he was included in the list of the many artists you were associated with while at the Rockport Art Museum. It would appear that he was THE man of letters in Rockport. What kind of artist was he?
BTW you are to commended on the quality of your writing. You can precis your comments, beliefs, experiences, artistic knowledge, and ideas into each sentence and paragraph in a style similar to the quality British publications, e.g. the Economist.
I echo the appreciation expressed in the other comments = great posts

March 27, 2010 9:16 PM

Barbara Carr said...

Jim, Charles Movalli is alive and well and still painting (he's not THAT old!). One of the places you can find some pics and info is:

Jim Nolan said...

Barbara - thank you for the information. I was mistaken to think of Movalli in the past tense

Stapleton Kearns said...

I keep my pants legs rolled up anywhere west of Utah, for just that reason. The Pacific is not pacific, it is a vengeful crone crouching at the bedside of a slumbering nation and placing our national hand in a bowl of warm water.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Philip. Everything above the surf and below the horizon is a problem waiting to happen. The less of it the better.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I saw a Roger Curtis today at the Rockport Art Association.
Charles Movalli is brilliant, funny and a very good painter.Great designer and unbelievably loose.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Yes, Charles Movalli is alive and living in Gloucester. He has had some health challenges in recent years.

willek said...

It must have been cold but beautiful today at Halibut! Did you have to wear your winter outfit? Can't wait to see what you got out there today.

I have always had trouble converting to a lower viewpoint as you mention. Most of what I have done recently has only an inch or two of sky. I have had waves lapping at my easel and sloshing over my shoes, trying to be low, and I have see fishermen get wet and have to scrample to get out of tight spots. They lose a striper fisherman every year or two off Newport.