I had no success at all for several evenings. One evening, in frustration, I stopped staring at the small section of rock and ocean I was trying to paint and took in the whole scene. By looking all around at the coast, I started to get a feel for the bigger picture. I began to understand the scene I was painting by understanding it in context of everything around it.
For the first time I understood that it was exactly like painting a
portrait. I needed to see a subject talk and move about the room, to
begin to sense their character. The portrait, in the end will show the
subject from a particular angle, in specific clothes and lighting, but
should reveal more about the subject than how they happened to look
at one moment. The same approach was needed at the seacoast. Just as
I wouldn't want to paint a portrait from a single photograph, decisions
about elements of a painting needed to be based on a larger impression.
Well, I did not master the coast, but I left with a greater sense that
I, as the artist, have to take in the whole with some measure of understanding,
then pick carefully which elements will best tell the story.