"East End Rocks, Shadows, Seaweed, " c Sukie Curtis, 2010, 10x10, oil on canvas
When I finally got outside that day (which is now many days ago, four whole weeks ago, July 25, to be exact), I loaded up my car and drove around a little, trying some of my former outdoor painting haunts to see how things looked--tide, sky, clouds, etc.
I didn't want to waste a lot of time driving around (and I could see that it might help to decide where you're going to go the night before, and just deal with whatever conditions are there), so I ended up near the boat ramp at the East End of Portland, looking northeast toward Falmouth and Cumberland and the islands of Casco Bay that lie in that direction--Mackworth, with its causeway, then some smaller ones I don't know the names of, then Clapboard and Sturdivant.
It was around 8 am, if I remember right; the sun was well up in the sky, there weren't many clouds. The sky was a pale milky blue, nearly cloudless, and there was no wind to speak of. In other words, the sky and the water were . . . boring. No variations, no fun clouds to capture, no wind ripples or stretches of rough water. I honestly didn't want to paint what was in front of me--at least not until I noticed what was really right in front of me.
The shadows among the tumble of rocks and boulders along the shore, and near the water's edge, splotches of exposed seaweed.
Remember, this was the first time I had painted outside in over a year, so I was feeling a little bit timid. I wanted to enjoy myself, and I really didn't want to end up frustrated and disappointed with my painting experience. I didn't even get out my easel for starters, but instead found a flat expanse of rock on which to sit, with my paint box beside me on the rock, my bag of paint, brushes, and assorted equipment on the ground by my feet. I put on my well-used apron and held a prepared canvas in my lap.
"Keep it simple," I might have coached myself. "Just start somewhere." I had a feeling that once I got started mixing colors, or something, anything, I'd be OK. I just had to get started.
It was the deep, velvety shadows in the rocks that held my attention the most, so I started mixing colors for those, not really trying to be visually accurate, but to enjoy the process and see where it would lead. The painting up above is where it led. I worked for over an hour, I think, though I really don't remember the details any more. I worked until I felt I was finished, was satisfied with what I had done, was hungry and ready to get out of the sun.
When I got home, happy to have broken through the mixture of fear, self-doubt, and inertia that had kept me from painting outside for a year, I put my painting up on my wall to dry and rather quickly decided I'd like to paint a variation based on it, to change the composition a little bit and just play around.
Which I did a day or two later. Which produced the following:
Rocks, Shadows, Seaweed Variation, c Sukie Curtis, 2010, 10x10, oil on canvas