The Foggiest Notion

When I thought about today’s painting, it struck me that painting is very much like driving in a fog. I left home the other day to drive to work. It was a clear day, early in the morning. I knew exactly where I wanted to go and what route I would take. I had allowed plenty of time, so I set out, singing happily along with the radio. I drove about four miles and the fog rolled in, thickly and quickly.

So it goes with a painting. An artist will have very well laid plans, know how to make a finished piece of art, and suddenly be overcome by a thick cloud of brain fog. Just as I experienced last week, even in broad daylight, the cars disappearing in front of me, my vision of a painting can be suddenly lost. I knew I was on the right road, that I would eventually reach my destination, but I had not the foggiest notion how long it would take me to get there!

Sometimes, that’s how it is with our art work. I know that I have the tools I need. I know I am on the right track, I have carefully planned out my steps, given myself time to accomplish the task, but my brain suddenly clogs up with insecurity and doubt – can I possibly portray the images I have in my head? Is there a bright light I can shine on my thoughts so that I can see more clearly what I need to do? If I slow down and stay on course, can I avoid making tremendous mistakes and having to trash my work?

With these thoughts in mind, I sit down to a blank canvas and slowly begin. I don’t know if the fog will lift, giving me clear vision. I only know that, just as I have learned to keep going if I want to reach my destination in my car, I’ll have to show up at my easel, put some paint on that canvas and rework it until I get it right. Or at least until I have something I can live with.

There is a memory of a day I want to capture. I have a photograph of the Northern California coast just as we hit Highway 101. I want to make the fog look real, to give the piece that suggestion of damp, wet, misty low-hanging clouds rolling in. Step by step, here’s how I did it.

  1. After sketching in cliffs, rocks, house and tree, I painted sky and sea a very pale pink. I used Titanium White mixed with a bit of Alizaron Crimson. Even a drop was too much, so I overcoated it with white, leaving a few suggested waves in the foreground.


2.  Roughed in cliffs and rocks, paying particular attention to lighter value on top the rock in foreground. Let dry


3.  Mixed Cad Yellow into Ultramarine Blue, Pthalo Blue and Alizaron Crimson to make dark shadows and painted in houses. Lightened with white to make rooftops. Painted in trees with dark value.

4.  Removed one tree and repainted sky with White mixed with Crimson. Washed thin white over rocks in background to bring fog in.

5.  Added Raw Sienna to warm up foreground – roughed in water, adding smaller rocks.

6.  Added gray shadows in water, painted sea grass in foreground.

7.   Decided sky is too pink, so glazed over all with a light gray, using Titanium White and a bit of all the other colors to gray it down.

I think FOGGY AFTERNOON is finished. Now, I’m going to go looking for a sunny day!


5 Responses to “The Foggiest Notion”

  1. I really enjoyed watching the creation of a painting. It amazes me to see how you blend the different colors to get the look you want. You are very blessed to have such a wonderful talent.


  2. Beautiful picture, and insightful comments about the importance of not letting doubts derail what you are trying to accomplish. The value of “keeping on keeping on,” and the notion that it’s ok if it isn’t perfect at first – just keep working at it.


  3. Sitting still is the most difficult part of it, I think. We think we always need to be “doing”, don’t we?


  4. Learning to sit still during the process, much like meditation, is a challenging practice. Brava!


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