Passing Shadows

Plein air artwork overlooking Rockaway Beach on the San Mateo coast of California

Artwork Notes:

Passing clouds cast shadows of doubt across the rolling hills. Would it rain? Would it hold out? Would the wind come up and blow it all away? The short trail up was full of the oddest switchbacks you’ll ever see. Paved path 50 yards to the left, then 50 yards to the right, to gain a mere 10 feet with each run of the gauntlet. A bench with a view at every right turn. 5 or 6 of them, one above the other stacked up the hillside- ornaments for the Mother of All Switchbacks paved in all her bituminous glory. Hikers, joggers, headphones blaring, baby strollers zipping this way that way, a choreography of life unfolding up and down this hill. Metaphor on metaphor coming on strong, hitching rides on the passing shadows. Halfway up the hill, maybe on the third bench she sat. Unstable. Speaking to the unhearing ears, drowned out by fitness podcasts, she trailed off her sentences with laughter, but void of joy as each one passed. I too had to pass her by, my back burdened with gear and blank canvas, nothing to offer at this time but a piece of my silent heart. She is somebody’s daughter. She locked eyes as I approached. “In five years this could be you…” and she awaited my response as she reverted to her unsettling laughter. “I hear you” was my unthinking reply, and my mind continued “could be me in 5 days” as my own heart laughed at the thought of just how close we all walk that line even on a good day. I hope the shadows pass her by.

-Matt Beard




Artwork Information:


Artwork Title: "Passing Shadows"
Original Size: 16" x 12"
Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Year Painted: 2017

Additional Artwork Information:


Method: Plein Air
Date Painted: 09/12/2017
Region: The California Coast > Central California > San Mateo
Road Trip: SF/San Mateo 2017

Artwork Logistics:


Miles Hiked: 1-2 Miles
Hiking Terrain: Off Trail Wilderness Tromping
Geological Hazards: Steep or Unstable Cliffs, Awkward Footing on Uneven Terrain
Botanical Hazards: Some Poison Oak Observed
Anthropological Hazards: Sketchy Human Interactions
Weather Logistics: Painted in Heavy Winds, Threatening to Rain


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