Friday, July 4, 2014

Cape Ann Light

Excerpts from an interview with Betty Lou Schlemm.

Our Cape Ann light is constantly changing. I go right back to what John Carlson told us about the veils of atmosphere. We have them all here, the fog, the mist. It's like a stage with veils dropping down.
When there's only a single veil of atmosphere it's very bright out. Just a little bit of mist in the air. Oh, it's kind of exciting. I'm up in the sky right now, at noontime on a bright day, the sky coming down, the blue sky, and the sun. The veil of atmosphere is very thin, a lovely color, softened. It softens the day.

Morning Sunlight at Eastern Point
Now I'm dropping another veil down, the sky blue and the sun yellow-orange. They're touching each other. One coming straight down, one coming on angle. They're forming another color as they hit this atmosphere. They're joining together. How damp is the air? The particles? It becomes softer yet. The light lessens and lessens until it's just gray.

But it's so intense! That gray light comes down, hits the earth, bang! The light bounces. The luminosity of every object that it hits plays beautiful color.

Tuesday when we discussed this in class, we thought, well, maybe it's the ocean. Our rocks are warm. In Maine they're gray. Maybe that brilliant light hits the ocean and reflects into the rocks, which already have color, so it's going to become nicer.
Rain Coming In, Tenants Harbor
Somebody said Tuesday that the light of Cape Cod is different than the light of Cape Ann. They have lovely sand dunes. It seems natural then, when the light hits the sand dunes, you get a different kind of light. Light hits the gray rocks out West - no atmosphere - maybe that's why so many great painters go out West. The values and the color are magnificent there. Plus they have the sandstone.

When you paint outdoors the light constantly changes. From the minute you get up in the morning there's atmosphere. It's damp in the morning. That light goes against the heavens. At this low angle it creates a different color shadow. The shadow is always the complement of the light. The light is always stronger than the shadows,  except out West, where there's no atmosphere, and you get brilliant shadows.
Cape Ann's beautiful. At the end of the day when the light is so intense, just before it goes down, you get that brilliant light. Your shadows become black! You're going into a one-source light. Two hours earlier you were still working with  a two-source light, seeing a complement. But come the end of the day you're getting a Rembrandt light of the sun.

Why is a day lovely? People are responding to it. It's an artist's duty to show the way of why it's so beautiful.
Betty Lou Schlemm
I have to dream, dream to become the day. The subject matter doesn't really matter that much. When I go out to paint the primary importance is, what's the light of the day?

Betty Lou Schlemm's art class has met weekly in Rockport for  half a century. Proceeds from her current exhibition of 350 works at the North Shore Art Association - “The Gift” - will be donated to the Cape Ann Animal Aid Association, to Open Door, and to Wellspring House.

1 comment: