It was summer 2018 & I was finally able to attend a yearly plein air artist trip hosted by my friend and mentor, Howard 'Luke' Lucas in Cayucos, California. I had always wanted to attend, but was never able to because of work. I spent a few days with Luke and 10 other artists. By day we would all go on our own adventures to paint, and by night we gathered over a meal and shared our experiences and our artworks.
One day, Luke wanted to wake up early to paint the sunrise, so we went to bed early knowing we would wake up and chase the light along highway 101. I’m not necessarily a morning person, but the light in the morning is unique and full of inspiration for painting. When the sun is low to the horizon, during both sunrise and sunset, the light changes dramatically and the shadows create more form and visual drama. It can be very daunting to compose work during these times, because the light changes so suddenly, but it is a challenge worth attempting. The shadows and colors are much more rich than during high noon when the sun washes everything out.
Luke asked if I would drive his car, so four of us loaded up our paints up to head North on highway 101. We drove for almost 45 minutes looking for the ‘perfect spot.’ It is hard to decide when you’re somewhere so pristine. The coast line of Northern California is unbelievable to say the least. There are cliffs, beaches, waves, flowers, and in the morning, the colors of the sunrise are stunning around every turn. Where and how does one decide where to stop and set up? Finally we came across a lighthouse. Luke gasped and felt drawn to the view. We went a little further, turned around, and all four of us knew this was THE SPOT. ‘WOW…look at the light break over the clouds!’ Luke exclaimed. We parked the car, grabbed our supplies, and walked toward the water. There were purple and yellow flowers all around us as we explored the site.
When plain air painting, finding your spot is important. You walk around looking for your choice composition. There are so many choices! I had a panorama canvas with me, and really wanted to capture the ocean’s horizon with the lighthouse in the way I was seeing it..long and expanded. I find myself using long canvases often because they give the impression of the open landscape before me. The dramatic morning fog started to lift and meet the clouds as the sun rose. I quickly figured out the composition so I could capture the morning hues. As we painted for hours, I realized Luke had decided to take a nap in the flowers upon arrival which made me laugh. It really take a lot out of you when plain air painting and deciding what to paint. Tourists who were traveling down 101 would stop, marvel at the landscape and our paintings and then keep on their journey. I find great joy in sharing a moment in nature with others. Although I love the solidarity of being alone in nature, it is always fun witness others enjoying the same scenery as you while you paint it, and interacting with them. Folks are always highly encouraging and mind blown about the painting process.
A year later, my good friends in Oregon collected this original piece. However, canvas prints and other products are available.
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Jessica R. Willis
Multipotentialite & Artist