Reference for Appledore Spray
oil on gessoed board
The cacophony of gulls singing praises to the dawn means that sleeping in on Appledore Island is nearly impossible, but I had set an alarm anyway. It was my last morning at the Shoals, and I planned to paint one more time before the boat left mid-morning.
My pack was full and ready in a building on my way to the painting spot I’d chosen. The tide was rising and the waves promised to be sizable. Knowing how sad I'll feel if I miss this chance, I force myself up and throw on some clothes.
The first part of the hike is along wide, grassy trails with bushes rising over my head on both sides - fairly easy going. Soon, the trail becomes a thin track over rocks as and, while I know my way, I tread carefully, balancing my full pack.
The waves are huge and loud enough to drown out the screaming gulls.
I see an interesting subject, shrug out of my pack and start unloading. I set up the tripod…
I watch the waves for a while and reluctantly realize that it is the wrong scene.
Leaving my things for the moment, I walk a bit further along and a little closer to the water’s edge. I find another rock with another pattern of surf and watch. This is it and I know it, but I have to go back for my tools.
Quickly, I reach my pile of supplies and shove most of them back in the bag, carrying a few things in my hands to save time.
I reach the chosen spot and set everything up - the tripod and pallet, the brushes and mineral spirits, stealing glances at my subject as I go. I study it through the view finder and decide that a square would be the best shape for this. Now to the canvas holder to fetch a square…
Only to find that it isn’t there. The small, grey box that holds my 8”x8” panels is not in the pack. It is not on the ground. I look everywhere. Three times, maybe four. Much moaning and cursing ensues as I continue to search, in vain, for the panels.
Somewhere among the gull dung, I find a clean place to sit and think.
I can’t paint without a canvas. I have looked through my piles of equipment and the surrounding area a million times. The box isn’t here. Somehow, it was left behind on the campus.
Breathe. Form a plan.
I still have a little time after breakfast to paint if I leave my stuff out here, eat quickly and come back with the panels. The tide won’t even change that much. Resigned to this and needing a cup of coffee, I pick my way back to the civilized part of the island to join my fellow artists for breakfast.
My companions ask how my painting went. I tell them my sad story of getting up on time only to forget my panel box. They are sympathetic, but they laugh with me.
“I’ll just get it on my way back out there. I’m all packed for the boat, so I can paint something fast and meet you with my painting stuff at the dock.”
I down my coffee before heading to the building we use as a studio to grab the panel box that I expect is out on a table in plain sight.
But it isn’t there. Anywhere.
I repeat my performance from earlier in the morning on the rocks - looking everywhere multiple times. It must be there somewhere - where else would it be?
Now, time is running quite short. I grab a sketchbook and head out to gather my things, planning to draw a little to make it all worthwhile before heading to the boat with no new painting.
I am sad. Leaving the island is always sad, and so is missing out on a great opportunity to paint giant waves. I try to keep my frustration under control.
At some point during my second walk out there, I end up in the first spot - the one I almost painted. I stop there again and turn around.
There, blending in with the granite, is my panel carrier. It had been there the whole time.
I look at my watch. There is barely enough time…. I try not to rush - I don’t want to fall on the slippery, sharp rocks or drop or break things in my haste or ruin my painting.
Earlier, I had studied the subject and I knew the composition, so the beginning was fast. A few slashes with a big brush to set the diagonals across the square.
I lay in the few details I care about in the rock - a little darker here, a little redder here. Now for the wave. For the next short while I watch and paint. When the wave hits the rock, I follow its motion with my eyes. After it recedes, I paint all the shapes and colors I can remember. The timer I'd set on my watch beeps. Too soon.
I stop and walk away a few paces - trying to find a flat, stable place from which to view my efforts. I turn around and I find that I am pleased. Maybe I have done it. There is motion and life in the quick little painting.
The urgency fueled me into a state of focus and now I can carry that wave and that rock home with me.
Somehow, I know that this is a better painting than it would have been had everything gone according to plan.
I pack up and make it to the boat on time with this and a few other nice little studies.
I say good bye to the island and thank it for the memories that are now in my wet panel carrier.
The effort of that morning in 2013 eventually yielded this jigsaw reduction print:
Appledore Spray, jigsaw reduction woodblock print