Crayton Cove-Three Paintings Compared

Crayton Cove Morning
Afternoon Sparkle Crayton Cove
Crayton Cove Sunset

The above paintings were completed “plein air” on the spot in the course of one day. The light effect changes throughout the day and this is what I wanted to capture in my work. Hopefully the sequence is obvious nevertheless, the first picture is morning, second afternoon, and finally sunset all from the same vantage point.

I would like to discuss each painting and its unique characteristics. After all you may be asking why paint the same image three times in one day or that they may seem the same to you. Well, the first image was done my first morning on Crayton Cove in Naples. I arrived early, which is fairly painful for me as I am not much of an early bird, and knew I wanted to paint the arrangement of this dock from this view. I was intrigued by the rhythm of the posts contrasting the horizontal movement in the water and background elements. It seemed “musical” to me. As an aside, I am always looking for these kind of rhythms in whatever I paint. I suppose it comes from my musical background. The elements of the composition themselves spoke to me as a former resident of SW Florida. The dock, water, boats and even the sky and trees “feel” like Florida to me and that is what I am after in each location and resultant painting. It must “feel” like the place or I have failed.

The best way to compare all three paintings is to examine them simultaneously. Lets start with the sky in each piece and its relationship with the other elements. Please notice that the morning sky is quite yellow/orange compared to the other two. Moving on, the treeline is a rather nondescript greenish hue at a mid-dark value. The line of boats stands out mostly due to hue and temperature changes rather than value. The water reflects the orangish tint of the sky and is a very light value without much in the way of disturbance and slight reflections. The dock itself is lit from the front and steeply left as the sun is rising. The posts display the orange light source of the sun and sky with resulting transitions into cooler notes in the shadows. The flat plane of the deck manifests strongly this light source and the cool bluish cast shadows from the upright planes of the posts. All this adds up to the “feeling” of morning light, a sunrise in SW Florida on the water.

In contrast, second painting from the afternoon displays a “washed out” sky with little color to it. I’ve observed that painting in the high afternoon sun becomes more about value contrasts as much as any color observations. Cast and form shadows develop in the treeline and boat line. The relationship of light side to shadow side is still warm versus cool but the hue becomes more neutralized into unnameable temperatures of hue rather than the mornings blue and orange. The water reflects the neutralized effect of strong sun and sky but at this hour shows the disturbance of a very enjoyable afternoon breeze. The resultant slight contrasts on the surface are dominated by the highest value “highlights” of the reflecting overhead light source on the water. The dock has become “contre jour” or back lit and as a result is the darkest almost silhouetted shape in the picture. In the shadows of the posts I noticed a lot of greens in the local color that blued off in the distance with atmospheric perspective. The upright plane of the dock is brilliantly lit and warm with slight cool transitions of modulating form. Everything about this piece says mid afternoon sun in contrast to the “effect” of the mornings work. These elements combine to strongly suggest a warm sunlit afternoon at the dock with a refreshing breeze.

If you’ve hung in there this long we shall look at the final piece. “Crayton Cove Sunset” was painting just as the title says… at sunset. This calls for a bit of preparatory drawing in anticipation of the 30 minutes or so of actual painting time I’ll have. The key here is to go for the big idea. The essential elements are all I had time for. The sky starts to take on red, green and purplish hues. Also of note, the value of the sky in comparison to the morning and especially the afternoon’s work is a mark or two darker. The treeline manifests deep shadows with coolish warm greens if such things exist. The line of yachts and boats have taken center stage as the brilliant light of the reddish orange sun dramatically strikes the far right planes creating bluish purple shadows of considerable chroma. Please notice that I have only said just enough to characterize the yachts and boats and little else… time is of the essence. As a result of these lighting conditions the water had taken on an amazing yellowish blue hue again a mark or two darker in value than the morning and afternoon work. In addition, it has calmed since the afternoon’s work. Our dock has fallen completely into an ambient light. It displays a dark value but not enough contrast to detract from the sunlit boats; it has become secondary. As a result it is treated simply. The flat plane of the dock surface is a near darker reflection of the sky and takes its place as a supporting element. Finally, all these relationships speak of a sunset at the dock on the water; the sun is just about to go down.

I hope this somewhat “technical” perusal of these three paintings reveals some of my inspiration and motivation for camping out in one place all day painting the same scene. If this method of working inspires you as it does me I highly recommend the artist Ken Howard as someone to look up. His work has helped me realize what I am interested in as a painter. As I said earlier, if it doesn’t “feel” like the place…

Cheers and God bless,

Chad

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