Revised Monday on the Laguna Madre


When the first light dawned on the earth, and the birds awoke, and the brave river was heard rippling confidently seaward, and the nimble early rising wind rustled the oak leaves about our tent, all men, having reinforced their bodies and their souls with sleep, and cast aside doubt and fear, were invited to unattempted adventures.

Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

Waking at first light, I lay on the comfortable bunk bed, enjoying the sounds of the occasional boat passing by, the birds along the coastland, and feeling the breezes coming through the open screened windows. I rose at 6:30, turned on the lights to see better to get dressed, and at 6:35 the power failed. I texted my contacts on the coast, and two university men came out promptly to inspect the electrical problem. Discovering that the problem could not be repaired within the week, they left with me a gas-powered electric generator, good for 10 hours, and promised to return in 48 hours to see if it needed more fuel. As it turns out, the only thing I would really prefer to do is charge my cell phone when needed, and percolate coffee once a day. I will have no lights inside, so I’ll need to go to bed when it gets dark. That suits me fine.

I tried twice to catch fish today. I managed three hard strikes, but landed nothing. Two of them I saw—big fat redfish taking my shrimp-patterned fly. They were really heavy, and I was excited.  I’ll try again later, but it was a thrill watching the redfish charge the bait. I need to keep my priorities in order–my first task here is painting, not fly fishing.

Today I painted the house on the island south of me, a bright yellow house that made me think of a Van Gogh painting in Arles. I loved the complementary purple structure immediately to its left, and tried to enhance that relationship. The clouds were delicious again, as they had been on the first day, and I wondered if the climate were this beautiful as far as the eye could see, at least to Mexico. As I painted, the sun highlighted the pier nicely to the right of the house, so I applied masquing to protect those areas and worked dark tones over the masquing. Later when I peeled it off, the highlights stood out just enough to satisfy. I’m still timid when I look at the shoreline, uncertain how to render the colors of the shallows alongside the bank. I’ll leave that to a later painting. So far I like what is happening in the upper part of the composition.

Painting Number 5

Painting Number 5

Looking eastward from this setting, I saw a gigantic cloud formation, so I decided to try a cloud portrait again. I thought of Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park compositions as I finished out the bottom ribbons of horizon, lagoon, and near shore. Before I came to the island, I wondered about the abstract possibilities of the landscape in this setting, and just now got my answer. I took a chance on rendering the light-colored shallows alongside the beach, but could not quite decide how to handle the sand. Another painting, perhaps. I’m deeply dissatisfied with the brushstrokes showing in the sky, and cannot believe that is happening. I’ve known how to do a flat wash since high school, and for some reason, I have lost that touch. The skies about this island are solid in hue, and I cannot seem to paint a “strokeless” sky. I’m going to have to figure that one out.

Painting Number 7

Painting Number 7

I also tried to paint the power station on the horizon for the second time, this time trying to capture the colors of the lagoon as well as the grasses, cacti and wildflowers on my side. Unsettled by the brushstroke issues in the sky, I chose to cloud this one up considerably, leaving little blue expanse to show.

Painting Number 7

Painting Number 7

I’m still trying to catch up on some lost sleep, and my energy is a little lower today. I was happy to have done four paintings on my first day, but will stop with three today.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am never alone.


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