One of my favorite subjects for painting is Sinclair Inlet, a body of water that is part of the Puget Sound in Western Washington State. Our little town has a great downtown on the waterfront. There are shops, restaurants, a tiny public market, and a park with a gazebo where a farmer’s market holds court every Saturday from May through September. During that same period, local bands perform on Thursday evenings. We’ve played there with every incarnation of our own band every year since 2012, and we’re already booked for 2018. One year, a submarine arrived at the Naval Shipyard across the way while we were performing. The aircraft carriers are part of the regular view, but this was special.
Bay Street runs through town, curving along the edges of the Inlet, and leads out toward the highway that heads to points North and South. Highway 3 continues North along the water, passing by many other inlets on the way up to Hood Canal and points North and West.
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Recent forest fires to the North in British Columbia, Canada, have forces thousands of people to evacuate their homes. The pall of smoke is huge and has found its way South through Washington, and there are wildfires here as well as in California. The particulate matter suspended in the air makes the pollution levels almost 3 times that of Beijing. Eventually, though, the air here will clear up while Beijing has no such hope.
The weather has been generally oppressive. Contrary to public perceptions, it usually does not rain in the Seattle area for the summer months. We miss our sunny, clear skies as a faint gray haze has settled everywhere. It’s been extraordinarily hot too. Upper 80s, 90s some places, and triple digits in a few areas as well. (This is unusual- most summer days are well inside the mid- 70s comfort zone.)
The sunsets have been spectacular, and a blood-red moon appears in the night sky. Local photographers have been posting gorgeous imagery almost every day in the community sites on FB.
The BLP and I ventured out on Thursday evening to hear our friends’ band on the waterfront, and to take some pictures ourselves. I knew I wanted to make a painting.
We headed down the road to where we knew there was access to a little beach. It’s a popular fishing site at certain times but it was empty that evening. We parked off the roadway and walked through the brush on a path downhill to the water. It opened to a lovely quiet scene. The sun was close to setting and the light was beautiful. The smoky haze gave the shores across from us a softer look than would usually be expected. I shot several reference pics and we headed back to the concert.
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On Friday, I looked at the photos I took and began working up sketches for a painting. I’ve painted different views of Sinclair Inlet in snow, in fog, and now in smoke. Both the snow and fog paintings are cool in temperature and required no colored ground, which may have undermined the effects I was looking for. I thought differently for this next one.
Prepping a 12” x 24” canvas, I put down a ground of red- orange. I realized I wanted that glow underneath to struggle against the ash in the air. It’s not visible in the final painting but like muscle under skin, it shapes the surface. This view is different from the other two in the greater clarity of the foreground. That smoky haze is insidious.
On Saturday morning, I headed to the studio right after breakfast and painted straight through until late afternoon, taking a short break for lunch. I'm not always sure that I'm finished, and I may yet tweak this a little more.
All three paintings are the same size, same subject, so I realize I now have a series. I hope to continue.
Sinclair Inlet; Smoke at Sunset © Rose Guastella 2017 Oils on canvas, 12” x 24”