Coquille River Liberty (2016)

On my way to Portland, I stopped at the lovely little lake to get some fresh air and add some finishing touches to “Coquille River Liberty.” It was a peaceful quiet spot. And I saw a beaver gnawing on a log!

The Coquille River Lighthouse is located in the city of Bandon, Coos County, Oregon. I visited it in June of 2016 on my plein air painting/road trip odyssey from Los Angeles to Vancouver. It made my short list of “must see” destinations based only from the pictures I found on the web. Would it be open for me to see the inside? What shape would it be in? Would I be able to find a decent spot to drop down my easel? I had no idea. The only thing I knew was that I was in awe of it. It was beautiful and if I was only going to paint one thing in the five weeks I was on the road, this would be it.

It was a rough start, mostly from the high winds – cold winds – coming off the water. My easel blew over. My paints dried out in a blink. My fingers were otter pops. People pointed and stared at the moron who was trying to look artsy and in control of the situation while he chased his sketch pencil as it rolled away and avoided inhaling too much of the sand that was shooting through the air.

I settled on sitting down on a rock and sketching an outline of the lighthouse directly onto my canvas board. Then I retreated to the Itty Bitty Inn, and painted it in the bathroom. It’s one of two paintings I finished in that bathroom, which is now sacred to me. You can see a pic of the bathroom in my post for “Verbena.” When you can’t paint outside, the itty bitty bathroom in Coos Bay is a great alternative. The sink was half a foot from my left hand, so re-filling my water and cleaning my brushes was easy. And the bright tiles threw a generous amount of light onto the canvas.

The only downside was that when I had to use the toilet, it meant moving out the easel and the chair. And if I wanted to wash my hands, I had to pull the palette with all my paints and brushes off from the top of the sink and balance it as I walked it over to the bed. Then once I finished, I had to move everything back into place. Not terrific for momentum, but the positives of the experience outweighed the toilet troubles.

Laying out the sky in a series of little mosaic strokes with the side of my flat brush created what I find to be a cool “chipped window” vibe to the painting, letting the sailboat and the lighthouse, with their more vibrant colors, really pop. The style of the sky wasn’t intentional, but instead a happy accident I liked and ended up chasing all the way across the canvas.

This was only my second attempt at painting on a canvas board, and the resistance of the surface gave me a lot of grief with brush choice, especially with the smaller details. I’m used to that little bit of give you get from a traditional canvas. I really enjoy pushing into it with my brush, and the mark it leaves behind. But canvas boards just give you the middle finger and push you right back. The resulting paint disbursement was new to me.

This was my first attempt at painting a sailboat. I studied Monet’s Argenteuil boats, and kept it as simple as possible. A few strokes and then one or two more for highlights. Done. I’m proud of myself for resisting the temptation to complicate it for the sake of coming off more advanced. I love that sunny little sailboat hanging out there and filling the left hand side of my frame, reminding me of the day before, when the idea of painting one tensed me up to the point of sleep loss.

Included below with the post are photos from the beach just behind the Coquille Lighthouse plus a video I took out on the jetty. You can see just how windy it was. Then picture me trying to paint. The bathroom at the Itty Bitty Inn was the right choice.  Don’t you agree?

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