Sometimes all we have to work with are grays. So, we tell ourselves stories like “gray is good”, especially if we actually prefer bright sun. It’s a mind trick, yes, but the truth is that opportunity can be found even in the overcast sky and the dreary landscape or, in this case, a muted harborscape.
Count on it being sunny in Monterey…most days. Not so this particular day. Nevertheless, on this morning Monterey harbor was the chosen location The bike was loaded up with canvas in a wet canvas carrier, a half-box French easel, and a couple of canvas bags full of paints, towels, and mediums. The recreation trail to Monterey harbor was the route. The rec trail follows the old railroad bed along the beautiful coast. It’s hard to believe that this trail was once just a railroad bed, making it’s way along the edge of the water all the way to the Pacific Grove train station, now vanished and existing only in fading photos, photos that have faded away like this foggy landscape. Now the trail is a busy pathway, full of tourists and locals. One can walk for miles along the route and find dozens of painting spots. This spot overlooks the harbor with a view of boats and wharves. The photo below seems to have clarified the scene a bit more than it was this day, however, in person, the scene seemed very muted and misty.
Laying in grays and the softness, and only sharpening and adding a little color to the subject, a salty little sail boat, the entire painting was painted in grays. The color was only added toward the end of the painting session. When you are on a boat in the harbor, you feel that your boat is the focus, is the center of the world somehow. Separated from the frenetic world, the moody ebb and flow of the harbor moves you this way and that, giving you a view of the
So, when painting moored boats in a harbor, it is important to block in the boats quickly and to be sure that they are all facing the same way. Lock in your composition and stay with it. Boats move constantly, and in a harbor like this, they face one direction and by the end of your painting they are likely to be facing the opposite direction. Only if the water is completely still for hours on end will they ever face different directions. This is something you know logically when you think about it or observe it, but if you do not get it right then, somehow, anyone’s brain knows instinctively that something is wrong with the composition.
As for embracing the grays, an overcast day is an opportunity to practice value studies, as many artists have said, making lemonade. An overcast day rather conveniently presents you with a sort of black and white photo-like scene, one that has been slightly hand-colored in the old-fashioned way the used to do before there was color photography. So embrace the gray. The sun’ll come out tomorrow.
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