To the Sea

Judith Reeve, “Wind from the Nor’east”, oil on linen, 20″x 30″, 2017

“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul;…and especially whenever my hypos get the upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off- then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can…There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.” [Melville’s Moby Dick, ch.1]

As long as I can remember, I have always loved the sea and yearned to be near it. As a child, I loved sea adventure stories and Conrad, Melville, Dana and Verne. In my senior year in high school English class, I was the only student to freely choose Moby Dick to read and write my culminating class paper. That love of the sea continues to this day and I find myself every year waiting impatiently to return. The briny smell, the wind and the crashing of the waves, the rock and tides- give me such a thrill. All these things get my enthusiasm going. And now that I paint, the images of the sea truly reflect my inmost self and my preoccupations with monumentality and vastness, fragility and permanence and the expanse of time set against the momentary experience. An incredible richness of life churns up from the sea and then returns to it. I admire the ruggedness of those that live and work on the sea as well as, all the creatures that sustain themselves in its harsh environment. The sea is beautiful because there is a bit of terror in it- terror as the Romantics saw it- expressing elements that are forceful and partially unknowable- residing on the edge of risk.

Judith Reeve,” Evening Surf”, oil on linen, 16″x 22″, 2017

Hence, my artist friends and I return to the Maine coast every year and camp in its vicinity immersing ourselves in the experience and expressing that immersion in paint and image (Previous years found at these links: 2015 and 2016).  I work from 8-9 hours a day in the elements. The difficulty with painting an image of the sea is its constant motion and fluctuation. One needs to seize upon the expression one desires quickly and stick to it amidst its constant transformations. As the tide and the position of the sun will not align on consecutive days, one needs to assert one’s imagination and power of memory to hold an image together. I find that my brushstroke takes on a more dynamic quality in the prescence of the sea. The churn and crash, the plume and the calm wave find much of their insistence through the stroke in the paint. This dominates over the expression of form alone- lit by the sun.

Judith Reeve, “Calm Sea, Otter Point”, oil on linen, 20″x 30″, 2017

Color is vivid in the rocks surrounded by the white semi-neutrality of the foam and wave. There is also an over-arching unity of color between sea, rock and sky as the reflected light of both the sea and sky are cast upon every surface-the sky reflected in the sea and top planes of the rocks and wells of water and the sea reflected on the down planes and wet surfaces of the rocks-A great unity of color and reflected light creating an atmosphere of beauty and wholeness. This year I used some new combinations of color. I created an orange from Y (cadmium lemon yellow+ raw sienna+ a touch of viridian to cool it off) added to my R (alizarin crimson+cadmium red vermilion). This worked well in the warm rocks, but also as a counterpoint to a blue-violet to create warm grays and gray-greens. I found that I needed to use two BV. My typical BV of ultramarine+mars violet and a BV of cobalt+ R (alizarin crimson+ cadmium red vermilion). The BV with the ultra and mars created perfect neutrality with viridian and created wonderful grays for the sky and sea when it was overcast or indefinite. It also created nice grays with the addition of OY. The other BV was more distinctly purple and worked well for cool rocks and violet accents in the sea. I did use some ivory black+ English red in the rocky crevices to create the necessary contrast of values. And of course, I used an excessive amount of viridian for all those cool greens in the waves.

Judith Reeve, “Pounding Wave and Foam”, oil on board, 12″x 16″, 2017

I had two days of spectacular waves at high tide with the wind from the northeast just pounding the rocks into shards. This was as thrilling as a roller-coaster ride and I have two images from those days- “Wind from the Nor’east” (20″x 30″) and “Pounding Wave and Foam”(12″x 16″). Here is a selection of paintings from my trip as well as some images taken by friends and people who photographed me on site and sent me their images. Thanks to all those kind people that felt the thrill as keenly as myself.

Photo by George Markos
Judith Reeve, “Summer Seas”, oil on linen, 20″x 30″, 2017
Judith Reeve, “Hazy Sea and Wave”, oil on linen, 16″x 22″, 2017
Judith Reeve, “Fog off the Coast”, oil on board, 12″x 16″, 2017
Judith Reeve, “Late Light”, oil on board, 6″x 8″, 2017
Judith Reeve, “Incoming Tide, Early Morning”, oil on board, 12″x 16″, 2017
Judith Reeve, “Isolated Cove, Maine”, oil on board, 12″x 16″, 2017
Judith Reeve, “Along the Bay of Fundy”, 20″x 30″, oil on linen, 2017
Photo by Jan Prentice

Author: Judith Reeve

For nearly 30 years I've developed my painting practice in the studio, building on what I leaned from my student days at the Lyme Academy of Fine Art. Along with my daily journey with creating images which I write about here on this blog, I am also currently writing a book on the color practice of Robert Henri.

4 thoughts on “To the Sea”

  1. Looks like heaven. Paintings are wonderful. Very exciting collection. Hope to see some in the gallery at the DVAA at some point. Congratulations.

  2. Amazing paintings, that though some of isolated sea, rocks and surf, these works of art have so well captured the sun emblazoned crystal clear blue skies of Maine reflected upon and throughout the translucent churning sea, that I feel I can hear that cacophony of sprays, echoing booms and gull songs amid the warmth of undulating swells of calm, and if I look up, just for a moment, I can feel that crisp clean breeze of air and sun on my face and see that beautiful Maine sky!
    What artwork treasures to behold for a transcendental moment in a busy life, to reset my thought patterns towards looking forward to the fresh, and new nature inspired opportunities in life!.
    Thank you for sharing all!!!

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