A Necessary Retreat, Paintings of Cape Cod

A retreat is always a necessity for an artist. It is so important to have time away and time for contemplation. In the end, contemplation is the labor of the artist and painting is the fruit of that time of silence. Baudelaire states quite truly that only in idleness can greatness come. Idleness provides  the imagination a moment to perceive and manifest images that are always present but our mind is closed to.

Last week, I painted the dunes and beach heads of Cape Cod. I painted small pochades, which are quick studies that give a feeling of immediacy. One can live in the moment and be open to something new, yet unperceived. This was a nice change since I spend a long time on my figurative paintings. They begin in contemplation; move to idea sketches; then to more developed drawings, choosing the pose that is the most emotive; then onto a color study; and finally the larger more developed piece is begun and worked through. A long process that takes months at a time. So this immediacy of the pochade was a welcome change. It was also refreshing and invigorating.

I cannot say enough about the power of reverie for the health and well-being of the imagination. Without the imagination there is no life, no vitality in one’s work. Baudelaire states, “The imagination is an almost divine faculty which perceives at once, quite without resort to philosophic methods, the intimate and secret connections between things, correspondences and analogies.” (Baudelaire, “Notes on Edgar Poe”, The Painter of Modern Life, p.102) It is these intimate connections that the artist must concern himself with. Why waste your time on anything else.

All of the pochades were painted in oil on Bainbridge board #80, double thick, measuring 6″X 8″. The area I found most beautiful because of its wildness was from Nauset Light to Head of the Meadow to Race Point. This upper area of the Cape remains mostly untouched similar in feeling to Thoreau’s description of his walk across Cape Cod so many years ago.

Author: Judith Reeve

For nearly 30 years I've developed my painting practice in the studio, building on what I leaned from my student days at the Lyme Academy of Fine Art. Along with my daily journey creating images which I write about here on this blog, I am also currently writing a book on the color practice of Robert Henri.

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