I guess the lesson here is that one can never trust a weather forecast! I had a one day plein air workshop scheduled for this past Saturday in Smithtown, NY but we cancelled it because the weather forecast called for a 60% chance of rain and cold damp winds for both Saturday and Sunday. Needless to say I never saw a drop of rain and Sunday was one of the loveliest days I can recall since last autumn.
The element which made both days memorable for me was the incredible sky that the passing cold front left in its wake; massive fair weather cumulous clouds moving majestically up from the south. Nothing makes me more excited to get out and paint than the presence of this sort of very busy sky.
I left early on Saturday morning to head over to Centre Island Beach because I know that it is a spot where I can get a bit of water and some distant trees in the foreground yet have my canvas be mostly devoted to a good sky painting. However, I never made it that far because, as Bayville Road makes a sharp right-hand bend, you get a view across Long Island Sound towards Connecticut and I was amazed at how beautiful this sky was. The plein air mobile made what the faint of heart might consider to be a rather treacherous left hand turn into the beach parking lot. I got out of the car and looked to the west and saw the kind of view I normally only see in my dreams, lots of blues and grays in the water and in the tumultuous sky and a wonderful pink beach house which was brightly illuminated and would serve as a wonderful focal point.
Idyllic, right? Well, not exactly. If you know the area then you are aware that I was set up just across the street from a somewhat new amusement park which I think is called the Bayville Scream Park. Among their other attractions they apparently have a pirate themed ride. To lend the proper atmosphere to the ride they have a loud recording of a very British sounding sea captain exhorting his crew to fire upon the dreaded enemy. The recording is repeated…over and over and over again! I began to root for the pirates, hoping they would get in just one shot which would send the annoying British flagged frigate to the bottom of the sea!
Not being one to look a gift sky in the mouth, I ate lunch, did a few errands, grabbed my rig and headed out again. I returned to Rottkamp’s Farm where I had painted last week for just the same reason as before…a bit of foreground to act as an anchor for a sky painting. And finally, early on Sunday evening, the clouds lowered, blocked out the sun and any blue sky, and raindrops began to splatter on my palette!
In truth, conditions would not have been very favorable for some of my less experienced students. Both days felt a considerable cool wind and the clouds intermittently blocked the sun causing subject matter to be illuminated, thrown into shadow and then illuminated again. Variable conditions while painting outdoors can be maddening even to the most experienced painter. But this was one day I will never forget!
Note that all of these small sketches are available for sale directly from me via this website. Simply click on the “Paintings and Prints” tab and then on “Available Paintings”. The price includes shipping costs.