This 30"x44" oil painting of a sunset at Wades Beach on Shelter Island began a year and a half ago as the result of a conversation with a lovely woman who had recently purchased one of my paintings. She asked if I could do a large painting of a sunset scene from a beach that she and her husband loved and which I had never seen.
I explained my process would require me to see the area and to make notes and take photos and that I would then send her some photos by email so that she and her husband could respond to them and guide me as to the painting's direction. We drove over to the beach so that she could show me where it was and what view she thought she would like to be featured in the painting.
That evening I returned to the beach and took some photos of the view we had discussed. I immediately noticed that the sun did not set directly over that view which was to the south but instead it set way over to the side. I sent some photos of the scene and of the sky to the west. Nothing quite sparked a strong response so I said that I would keep trying. I sent more photos. I received some in return. Nothing was quite working.
My next thought was to find a beautiful sky over a shore scene that I had taken the year before and to suggest that we use that sky with the scene that the couple liked. They liked the idea and I decided to do a small study before proceeding to anything large. That painting, with an additional boat added since is pictured on this site in the New Work Collection as Shelter Island Sundown.
Once it was viewed, the couple decided that that wasn't quite the view they would like and they gave me further feedback about what they now thought they would rather have. This reminded me a great deal of my experiences as an illustrator. My sketches would prompt responses from the art director that could only come after they were viewed and not just as a result of discussion.
Because Shelter Island is about three hours from my home, I couldn't just pop over there often, but over a period of months, I returned to the scene several times. I also did a painting of a cottage at that beach as it was bathed in strong pinks and purples from the setting sun. That painting, Wade Beach Cottage at Sunset, prompted other ideas about what would make the ideal scene. The question now posed was whether I could include the cottage, the beach, the water and some of the western shore.
On my next trip, I drove over to Wades Beach during the day so that I could walk around and view the scene from all different angles. I set out down the beach and as I turned around and looked back, I felt that I had finally found the scene that would include all of the wished for ingredients.
Over the next couple of evenings, I watched the sky and hoped for a dry evening but one with clouds. I got my wish and madly drove over to the beach to be there as the sun set. I felt that this time, all of the ingredients were there. Once I reached home, I sent off several more photos and got the enthusiastic response I had been hoping for. I now had the reference I needed to move ahead with the next study. This one was successful and I was given the go ahead to move on the the final painting.
The commission reached its happy conclusion when the painting arrived at the home of the couple who commissioned it. It was a long journey in every way. Besides the length of time between first thought and final product, because of a move, the painting was now to reside in California instead of New York.