Paint Schoodic

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Homer's "Wine-Dark Sea"

Heavy Weather, done for now.
Occasionally, scholars get themselves tied up in knots over Homer’s “wine-dark sea.” The Aegean is just as blue as any other sea, and there are many theories about what Homer (or whoever actually wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey) was thinking: it was discolored by red marine algae, Homer was color-blind, the Greeks drank wine that was actually blue, or they didn’t have words to describe the deep blue-green of the sea.

There are times when the ocean just looks ominously dark, and that’s what I think he meant. The wine-dark sea is, to me, Prussian Blue dulled with Burnt Sienna—an unfathomable darkness.
Occasionally, optics can make the ocean look reddish. I took this photo off Sandy Hook, NJ.
It’s very easy to anthropomorphize sailboats. Still, I was startled to realize that Heavy Weather is an autobiographical painting. It is me skittering over the wine-dark sea.

“That should make it therapeutic to paint,” my friend B. said. I don’t really think so, but realizing it is autobiographical made it very easy for me to reach through the painting to correct its fundamental problem.
Heavy weather, increasing the seas.
My cousin Antony is a dedicated sailor. He got right to the issue when he said, “I would expect a lot more white water around if you only had a storm jib up.” Reference photos have a way of flattening hills, mountains, vistas—and raging seas. I needed to feel the water as a surging force, and then paint it as such. Once I realized what I was painting, that was a snap.

This is exploratory, and there are qualities that are very tentative. I have no problem painting water en plein air, but I need a little more assurance to get the same insouciance from reference photos, especially when I don't have any particularly good ones.
Heavy weather, underpainting.
I’m going to revisit this same subject in a few weeks. But before that happens, I’m off to Maine to do some research for next summer. I’m planning to freeze off my ears so that when you come to Schoodic to paint next August, it will be a perfect trip!

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