"Winter Harbor" - the painting
I loved doing this painting -
I worked from a picture my brother sent to me from his phone while he was looking out over this harbor one early summer morning. The area is familiar to me which always helps in representing something where you know the terrain and the feeling of it.
I wanted to paint this because I loved the contrasting and ombre effects of the blues going from the dark of the ocean to the lighter grays of the fog; the contrast of the water and the fog moving, yet a feeling of stillness and peace. It was intriguing that hundreds of thoughts could be evoked from a singular picture.
I never tire of looking at this scene - another criteria met.
The problem was how to get all that on canvas.
Like anything else in life, I approached the task one step at a time. For the artist, creating an underpainting is like creating a solid foundation for anything you are building. For the underpainting, I started on canvas with black gesso mixed with blue paint, merging with white gesso for a grayish center and then finishing with a soft white at the top of the canvas. I blocked in the horizon and the boats with paint and noted the source of the light.
I worked with a limited palette of oils in blues, white, and Payne's gray. To create the sea and the fog in this work, I used a wet on wet (all prima) style of painting that allows the colors to merge and be moved around to create the many shades of water and a feeling of movement. This layered style of painting works well for me when I paint water. In this instance, it also made the transitioning of water/fog/sky easier to create. If you are new to painting, you might want to play with this technique as it has endless possibilities.
The surprise in the painting was when I painted the first boat in the water - in the photo, there were several boats in the area. For some reason, the singular boat seemed right. The solitary boat in a sea and it's universe prompted more thought than just a pretty picture of boats hanging out in a harbor. I finished the one boat and noted that the painting made me think of the old Breton prayer, "O, God, thy sea is so great and my boat is so small."
I always liked that verse and keep it on hand, so I Googled it out of curiosity. It was part of a poem written by Garrison as a fisherman's prayer. I also learned it was loved by Admiral Rickover who gave this saying on a plaque to graduating submarine captains and to JFK, who keep it on his desk when he was President. It's now in the JFK Library in Boston. You learn something every day!
I also learned that the pretty picture of boats hanging out in a harbor is a painting for another day. :)