The Mendocino Coast in Northern California is a sanctuary for meditative spaces and environments. One of them is the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse just south of Fort Bragg.
During MOPO 2018 hosted by the Mendocino Art Center, a group of us artists went to capture this historical structure. To get to the lighthouse, we walked through the tall weeds and grass of the headlands. Our eyes were looking for the pleasing angle and distance and to find the “right spot” to paint. It was a very tactile and real experience. The smells and sounds of the ocean were evident. The wind generated by the ocean swept across my face. I stood near the unprotected cliff edge. The crashing waves just a few feet below created a moment in Earthly Heaven.
The Sound of Music All Around
Imagine the sounds of seagulls and ocean waves roaring to the cliffsides. The background noise is there and yet it is as if we don’t hear it. We cherish the so called silence. Once in a while, a distant bell or a soft distant horn is heard. We are reminded of the silence. Then we tune in again to the steadiness of the background sounds, until we don’t notice anymore. This subtlety was an example of the beauty the area possesses.
In music, there are two terms called consonance and dissonance. Consonance is considered the pleasing sounds. Dissonance are considered the dis-pleasing sounds. In a minimalist work of music, one might hear the tranquil and steady current of sound mingling agreeably in the soundscape. At certain intervals a sharper distinguished sound may swell and recede, as if fleeting across from one place to the next. Then it’s gone.
Working on the painting in this setting brought me the idea of music. It is the music that nature composes.
That “Perfect” Light
There, at about thirty-nine degrees north latitude, the sun creates that “perfect light”. This is the light that I love as the fall season comes to a close. The light is stark but the shadows are soft. Again, another inherent dichotomy where one condition supports the other in a natural balance. It invites contemplation, and sets a philosophical mood.
At my first sight of the lighthouse, I immediately had the picture in my mind before the painting began. The lighthouse would be off to one side and far enough away to show the vast space around it. The neutrality of tone and the buttery walls were just ready for the canvas. The character of the setting and the light within the shadows was poetic. If only somehow, I could have the ability to paint the sound and the air.
Note: This painting was recently sold to a private collection.
Learn more about the Point Cabrillo Light Station.