There were several things I wanted to capture in this painting. The customer wrote that her fiancé is a mariner. This is the spot where he proposed and it is her wedding present to him.
She mentioned the waterfall, the craggy rocks, the distant hills, the boat, the old-growth forests, and noted “there must have been close to 100 white birds flying above us that day.” She sent me a picture of the view looking towards the ocean. I loved the look of the water in that particular view: it seemed to glow far off in the distance. In art language we call it a “transition” – a shading technique from dark to light.
Usually I obsess about doing skies but for this painting, I focused on the water because her fiancé loves it. Water is fascinating because of how it moves and the way it reflects everything around, above, and below. There’s a pattern to the waves but the effect in the painting is a little more random and stylized, to look like streamers or something celebratory, which is reflected in the airstreams above. Moreover, even the waterfall is bubbly and champagne-pour effervescent.
The gulls flying above are like rice or confetti, like what the guests at a wedding would throw in blessing at a departing newlywed couple. It’s funny: seagulls are chaotic fliers; they don’t go in flocks or patterns. From what I’ve seen of their behaviour, they charge up in clusters when there’s a storm coming or some kind of disturbance below. Maybe it was the couple and their boat, maybe it was a big school of fish or a whale, but it’s an interesting point to capture on that day.
The boat is positioned to point at the proposal spot. The rock is painted with lots of texture because one should experience a painting with touch as well as sight; it just has to be a tactile, sensual thing. I’m sure no one can tell, but the underpainting of the rock is orange and red and pink for underlying warmth. There’s a lot of hidden light in that rock.
This is also a diagonal composition, which is typically more restless than classic triangular compositions. The first area of focus is the boat, then the waterfall, and then the eye follows the path of light off the far right-hand side of the painting. Normally this would be a landscape no-no because you are supposed to lock the viewer into the picture by putting a framing tree or a darkened element on the far right side. You don’t want the viewer to wander off the edge of the canvas and never come back.
But I left the view towards the ocean open because I kept thinking of that “view facing the ocean” photo she sent. They must have marvelled at the view that day, and I remembered this quote:
“Life has taught us that love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking together in the same direction.”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Acrylic on canvas, 36″ x 48″
Located at: Private Collection