It’s true, that fog just lingered on, and on. Those pale blue eyes…
I saw a burst of blue sky while rounding a bend and thought for sure the fog was lifting. That was my mistake- thinking anything was sure about fog. I should know better. And I generally do, but the scene was truly beautiful so I thought I’d risk it for the biscuit and I barely got a sketch in before the fog went all gray and dark. I could still make out the foreground ok, but mostly just had to finish the piece on that first impression of a memory. All good. It can be somewhat liberating to chase a memory because it’s more of a feeling than a literal thing to look at and compare to. When it works it’s a lot of fun.
If the previous painting of the day was titled Something Easy, well this would be the opposite of that. This place is hard. In many ways. And so was this painting. For a long few minutes, I didn’t think it was ever going to work to get this down the beach perspective. But what a dynamic place to hang and paint on a cool summer evening, I left the beach buzzing.
Ever since I’d heard about the remains of this old pier at the bottom of a steep cliff, all covered in graffiti, I knew I’d need to paint the place. The morning fog kept me from being able to paint another cliff top vista nearby so I took advantage of the weather to paint these remains from a close distance where the fog wouldn’t obscure my subject completely. I didn’t know the graffiti would read “ether”. Seemed appropriate to me on this day where even one’s own thoughts seemed to vanish in the ether of fog every few steps. Halfway through painting the sun burned the fog away and a beautiful morning light hit the remains and I went after it.
The Sea is for “California”
The Ay is for “Ay, it looks kinda fun out there”
The El is for “Where the El did all these people come from? It didn’t look this crowded a minute ago”
The I is for “I didn’t see you back there”
The Ef is for things I’ve heard out there that I can’t repeat
The Oh, is for “Oh look at this set coming in”
The Arr is for “Arr, that guy seems like he’s getting every wave with that massive log”
The In is for “Hey those guys just went in”
The I is for “I might get a wave or two now”
The Ay is for “ay, it is was super fun out there today”
Hot exhaust fumes hardening into tar deposits hanging in the air over the snow cone machines where the tourist buses come to die and pour out their guts just short of the hospital where elderly cottages are kept on life support by the steady IV drip of short-term rental vacation deposits.
This place is bought and sold to the masses as a glimpse back in time to an older California.
Except the older California didn’t have a gift shop.
I just came to paint and move on. It really is an adorable little cove though.
Another view from the roof of my van. To be honest I pretty much just painted this because the prime parking spot had just opened up. It was a busy morning on a bright summer day and I was worried if I didn’t stay here I might not find another parking place all day. I opted for the rooftop view not as much because of the compositional possibilities it offered (I actually liked the view from below a little better), but because it would give me a buffer from all the busy activity below. Throw some headphones on and I could be in my own private outdoor studio for the next few hours and that sounded just fine to me.
Even still that didn’t stop friends from passing by, climbing up on the roof to check things out, grabbing beers from my cooler below and having a generally fine time.
But what could I do? After all, it’s just like they say…
No Van is an Island.
I came with a plan.
The plan was to paint these sculpted arches and coves and the sea at work around them while ignoring everything else. Forget the palms, forget the houses, forget the sun and the sky, forget the boulevard, and forget it’s name along with my own and just get lost in the weathered sandstone and rhythms of water and paint.
But I also came with a van. With a roof platform. And four other artist pals. And a cooler full of ice cold beer.
Next thing I knew I was up on the van painting, well, everything.
An arch that’s been painted once or twice or a thousand times before this, and will be again by countless others walking these shores.
All I know is that at least on this day they better approach from the south, because there was no getting past the rocks on the north side. A steady stream of snap-shotters and well dressed selfie-seekers poured into this arch as I stood and painted, and everyone one of them stopped and turned around to go back to from whence they came.
None shall pass.
For effect feel free to picture a pirate sitting on the arch spitting and cursing all of us softies down below, the dirty soles of his feet swinging in the wind overhead, while the barrel beside him leaks almost as much as the streams of rum running down his beard*.
NONE SHALL PASS.
*I am not the pirate. Any resemblance is purely coincidental and imagined.
I don’t know why the child suffers
But I know he is more than his pain
I don’t know when he’ll return to this place
But I know he’ll be here again
I don’t know why this life
Brought him these troubles so soon
But I know that when his feet touch this sand
The child walks on the moon
Painted at the request of the parents of a small child suffering a painful medical condition. This beach is his favorite place in the world and they wanted him to have this painting to remember the place and bring him some cheer and remind him of good times had, and to look forward to as well.
There are souths, and there are Big Souths, and there are places like this that are still south of those while still being north of many other souths, let the reader understand.
I’d spent the morning painting out on that headland just past the breaking waves, and the view in this direction made for a perfect bookend of an afternoon. Like justice being served.
Speaking of justice, we need to figure out how to serve justice to folks that are trashing beautiful places like this. The view is worthy of the glossiest post card in the gas-station spinner rack, and yet the ground is covered in debris like the gnarliest gas station restroom you’ve ever laid eyes on. It’s sad. Sorry to mention it here, but it’s hard to see and say nothing about. If it gets much worse I might have start including the toilet paper drifting in the wind in these paintings and nobody, nobody, nobody wants that.
And then there was this. I’d looked all my life for a wave like this peeling across an empty sandbar on a lonely coast in California. I could hardly believe my eyes. But even if they had betrayed me, there was also that feeling in the gut, the butterfly that gnaws and never lies about the presence of greatness, holy ground, and all that. Today was not the day to venture any further, but I’ll be back.