Last Tuesday, I was invited by my new plein air painting friend Paul Taylor, hailing from the Rochester, NY area to make a trip out to Rock Island Lighthouse with him for the day. Paul's family have been summer visitors for several generations on our side of the River, just up river from Rockport. Last summer, he visited our gallery and showed great interest in our getting together to paint outdoors, but that was not possible then... due his heavy exhibition schedule and teaching assignments for the remainder of the 2012 summer season. True to his word, he reappeared last week... and the rest is now history. I now have a new plein air convert... and my crystal ball tells me that I have a kindred spirit to plan further forays, as our mutually busy schedules and family lives will allow.
Paul works in water colour and acrylics... mainly in the studio, except for his sketching and photographic forays. He works in a prolific and highly skillful manner, as attested by the large clientele and sales base that he enjoys. His handling of both mediums and the consistent compositional strength in his work, clearly places him firmly in the "professional" category of painters. The wide range of products that he offers, along with his commission reputation further advance my view as to his calibre.
He had never painted on location using his acrylics... and on this heavy, humid summer day and persistent westerly wind... I neither envied, nor encouraged his choice to use it for the day. Fortunately... for us both, we were blessed to find a shady place under the widespread arms of an ancient oak resident on the island for the entire day there. The cool... constant breeze was better than any air conditioning system and further added to my comfort and enjoyment of the session.
I won't try to describe my excitement in finding this painting mecca. I again will now add some of the photos that I took to give you a peek.
We skirted the entire island first in his boat ... snapping photos from the water for future reference. Then we docked and again set out snapping anything of visual interest... but at the same time carefully searching for that site we would choose to paint from. I had no problem finding one which inspired me, so I immediately retraced my earlier steps back to the boat dock and brought my kit and my 20x24 inch blank white canvas to the site. There was even a picnic table right in front of me... and as well, a high vantage point that allowed me a view which knit together the keeper's house and the light proportionally to the dimensions of my canvas. Paul decided to set up along side... agreeing that the shade was the drawing card, even though "his take" on the scene... as you will see, varied greatly from my own. A perfect start for the day!
First view of Rock Island Light from the water... looking westward upriver
The view I chose for my composition ... painting... and shade. The diagonal foreground of shade and day lilies with main focus... the light and keeper's house in the middle ground and the deep far shoreline background create a natural picture format. Only a few "uglies" needed to be ignored/edited out !
The keeper's house is fully restored and furnished in period furniture and decor. Every room is filled with pictures and memorabilia documenting the existence of the light... from its very beginning. Note the naval vessel passing down river. Lots of traffic!
In this picture... a large river Canada Steamship freighter/ore carrier, Salarium noses slowly up river past the light, likely headed to Lake Michigan to be filled. The shipping channel is very narrow at this point... and at least two ships have met their end here as result of the treacherous shoals on both sides of this narrow passage.
Here is an elegant old "woodie" mahogany rive classic... identifiably "Rock n' Roll" as the gold leaf lettering attests. Poppa's pride... you can be sure. "Mama was a rollin' stone!".... HA! HA!
I had to keep moving my easel around during the entire session to get rid of the annoying and distracting leaf patterns caused by the sun playing through the canopy above me. That slight disruption was a very small price to be paid for the comfort of the shade itself.
Painting and location - with only slight variances. I greatly shortened the distance between the light and the keeper's house intentionally... to accentuate the relationship of one element and its function... to the other.
"Rock Island Sentinel... Restored!" - plein air oil on canvas 20x24 inches
Here is the painting as it was completed en plein air - fresh... painterly and an impression of what lay before me. I'm satisfied with the result... and won't be adjusting it at all. Ready to be framed!
Paul... pondering his treatment of the red pine mass mid way through his painting. He plods and plots carefully, as is his method and habit. The 12x16 inch canvas shown below speaks for itself.... wouldn't you agree? Magnifique! A plein air gem! Someone else visiting the island thought so as well. They purchased the painting right from his easel! BONUS!!!
Note: Paul's "take" on the subject more closely resembles the actual subject before him. A "detail man" for certain!
I took this very quick photo of these young Amish women... not wanting to draw attention to the fact... so not to embarrass them, or myself by the intrusion. It is my usual custom to ask permission to photograph anyone for personal privacy reasons. But since they were obviously unaware of my interloper presence... I quickly snapped the picture. Their presence and costumes seemed so much to evoke the stronger sense of the historical past associated with this place of heritage. Perhaps, knowing of the equal amount of respect that I hold for this tribute to maritime majesty... and as well, to their adherence to their faith and principles... they might forgive this intrusion . I do have plans for this photograph ... in conjunction to one or two of the many photo references I gathered on this wonderful voyage of adventure and discovery.
Stay tuned for that!...
In closing... my gratitude and thanks to my new plein air painting pal, Paul Taylor... for providing me with the wonderful opportunity to experience this lesson in heritage and for sharing his equal passion to my own for painting on location. As well... my deep thanks to on site New York State Parks Historic Site Assistant Debra Spry and interpreter Jonathan Green for your interest... hospitality and more than friendly and inviting reception during our day long stay at Rock Island Light.
I will be back again for certain... to paint further at this wonderful heritage location!
Good Painting .... to ALL!!