Tweaking the Nest

A thought was murmuring in the back of my mind, but I was ignoring it. When a friend visited, she brought it to the surface.

“The nest doesn’t really show up.” she queried about my pastel of the osprey nest.

“No,” I replied unconcerned.

A day later the thought about my nest is now front and center. If I COULD, how would I highlight it against the deep Ultramarine cloud without it being garish

Pondering, I continued painting other canvases. Could I lighten the cloud? No that won’t work. The intense Ultramarine Blue cloud is what gives the whole painting depth.

Could I highlight the nest? No way, the nest is is shadowed by the cloud. It isn’t out on the point in the light. It’s at the back of the cove, sheltered and safe.

What if I scratch an orange line on the underside of the nest? Can I do it right the first time without messing up the whole painting? Maybe.

Tweaking the Nest

Scanning the pastel palette, I found a gold pastel with a sharp edge. Carefully I rolled it down the left side of the nest and pole. Then added one more mark at the top of the nest ~ just a spark of light reflected up from the sand.

Feeling the light on the beach, I ran the same pastel gently across the shadow side of the sand. Then found a pink highlight and touched it softly just in front of the nest.

Stepping back I found a soft blue pastel for a soft atmospheric mist behind the nest. Careful not to disturb the deep blues, I touched it only on one side.

Now I must say that all of the symbolism of the nest is not lost on me. I get it, or at least I think I do. I am a shy person. My nest is my studio and this website. Tweaking it is what I do. Shining a light on myself is not comfortable. Much better to let light from the landscape around me reflect on my nest.

And my friend? Oh she lives in a tree house!

Coastal landscape pastel painting
The Nest, pastel, 9 x 12, Purchase this painting>

Now if you want to delve deeper, ask yourself about the osprey. What does she do in her nest? What does she symbolize?

By the way, I’m finishing up on “Coming to the River, CreativSOUP.” This painting will be in that book!

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The Nest ~ Pastel and Oil Landscapes

Now I’d started a painting with this cloud. But it didn’t come to life until I did this pastel.

coastal landscape painting pastel
The Nest, pastel on Ingres paper, 9″ x 12″ 


The Nest ~ Pastel and Oil Landscapes

Once I had my pastel in hand, I could easily see and feel the vibrancy needed to complete the oil painting.

Thumb-tacked to the adjacent easel, the pastel helped me find the colors on my oil palette. This freed me from thinking too much. Using a palette knife, exuberant strokes blend together on the canvas.

Pastel is mixed on the paper as it is dragged through colors already in place. Palette knife is similar. Roughly blending on the canvas keeps the painting fresh, the calligraphy authentic.

palette knife oil painting
The Nest, oil on gallery wrap canvas, 20 x 24, 

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The Nest ~ Plein Air or Memory Painting?

Years ago, my painting mentor Robert Mayo asked if I ever tried to paint from memory. Rather than copying nature, have you ever just painted what’s inside of you?

Mmmmmmmmmmmm. I still recall the feeling of puzzlement at his question. I had never considered such a question. He’d handed me a new coat inside out and I didn’t know what to do with it. How would I use such a thing? What is it for?

daily painting coastal landscape clouds osprey nest
The Nest, oil, 20 x 24

Plein Air or Memory Painting?

This question has lived inside me for 30 years. Now I find myself exploring some memory paintings. This one, like others in this series, comes from memories of painting en plein air at Bethel Beach.

Which way are you creating? Are you copying something out there? Or are you letting your heart and soul speak your own truth?

I remember another question put to me by my painting professor at East Carolina University, Ed Reep. Ed set up two studios for us. He had a still life in one. We put our easels in the other. He asked us to paint from the still life in the other room. Awkward and impossible, as I recall.

In a dream, rooms can represent states of consciousness. In these examples, I was being asked to go back and forth from one to the other. Stepping back and forth is good training for dancing with the creator.

In this painting, I began with my feelings of earth and sky. Drawing from memory of the feeling of being out there with my feet in the sand and my head in the clouds, I mixed a big brush full of Holbein Blue Gray with a touch of Gamblin Quick Dry White and laid in the sky. Going back for more paint, I switched to Ultramarine Blue.

Mixing Cad Yellow Deep with Manganese Blue, I answered the sky with warm green earth. I really wasn’t trying to do anything more than block in the color shapes of earth and sky. I was thinking I might take the earth sky block in on the beach to paint.

Before I knew what was happening. the landscape on the canvas was speaking to me. I slowed the process down. Sitting in the chair across the studio, I stopped to listen. That’s when I began to see the pink lights on the cloud. I painted them in and sat back down. Still thinking I would take the canvas out on the beach.

That’s when I saw the inlet. Lightening the sky color, I floated it in below the cloud. Then a line of light sand along the far shore appeared in my mind’s eye. Mixing ochre with white and a touch of red, I rubbed it out beyond the inlet. Creating the far shore. Did I get the symbolism at the time? No.

Back in the chair. It was quiet for awhile. Then I saw the nest. Right at the axis. A tiny vertical rising from the sand on the far shore with a y-shape at the top. Of course. I mixed Alizarin Crimson with some of the left over green. With a small palette knife, I scratched in the lines.

The Nest. I had put on the strange coat without a thought. Had the coat been turned inside out? Or have I? This IS my nest. Do I get the symbolism now? Yes. What does it say to you? Which way are you creating? Are you copying something out there? Are you letting your heart and soul speak your own truth?

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Muses of Tuscany Retreat>
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See other paintings from this series>