The California light. It is special. It is strange and elusive. As a painter, I am obsessed with light situations and to capture them in my work. Recently, I find myself painting coastal scenes again, but incorporating the marine layer in it.
What is a marine layer? It is nothing but fog, created by two colliding air masses. One is the hot air coming from inland, the other the cool coastal air blowing onshore from the pacific ocean. When they meet, it creates a sort of microclimate with huge fog banks, so dense that you’d actually have to put on a jacket even in mid-summer! It is very possible to experience a twenty degree temperature difference (in Fahrenheit) between coastal communities and cities
further away from the ocean.
When the marine layer starts to lift and the sun is trying hard to break through, you get the most beautiful light. It is sort of sunny and foggy at the same time, a very unique condition that I haven’t seen anywhere else in the world. (at least not where I’ve traveled to) The same happens toward the end of the day, when the marine layer starts coming back. The air is very thick, filled with moisture and creates wonderful, atmospheric scenes.
When painting scenes like this, timing is of the utmost importance! I’ll have picked the scene hours earlier. I’ll have finished my preliminary drawing long ago. I am just hanging out, waiting for it to start…
Once it rolls in (or out) I’ll have maybe 45 minutes to do the painting. It is possible. Not easy, but possible…sometimes it’s not working out, but that only makes me try harder. Other times, the fog just doesn’t come or it never lifts (in the morning)at all and the scene will turn out completely different! The key is to keep an open mind and try painting outside, no matter what.
Ken Auster, a famous Laguna Beach oil painter, once said that painting outside is invaluable because it is observation driven, not technique driven! It is so true, there is no time to get caught up in technique! You’ll have other things to worry about, like finishing your painting!!