There is no doubt in my mind, and to anyone touched by the beauty of the world’s maritime locations, that lighthouses are iconic structures of which their mere presence draw millions of visitors every year. To me they are almost mythical structures giving us a glimpse into the past. As in many other aspects of our lives technology has taken its tole on lighthouses. Here is the opening paragraph from a Canadian government website regarding declaring approximately 1000 lighthouses “surplus”.
“On May 27, 2010, Fisheries and Oceans Canada declared approximately 480 active lighthouses and approximately 490 inactive lighthouses across Canada surplus to its needs. Under the new Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act, these properties can be transferred to new owners wishing to take advantage of their heritage designation or tourism potential.”
You can read the details from the Website and also see a list by province of the active and inactive surplus lighthouse here. Among the list of active lighthouses in my province of New Brunswick which are declared surplus are some real tourist icons. A photo of Swallowtail lighthouse on Grand Manan Island has often been used as the front cover of the provincial tourist brochures and it is now surplus. Other well known NB lighthouses close to where I live are: Quaco, Oak Point, Point Lepreau and Partridge Island.
It appears that the goal of all of this is to hand off the ownership and care of these historical marine buildings to private groups. At least they are making the offer rather than tearing them down immediately. I know there are a few interested groups in my region that are attempting to preserve these structures.
The point of all this is that information like the above is often the stimulus for subject ideas to paint rather than an initial visual stimulus. In the case of the lighthouses, I had already painted a couple of earlier watercolours in which my interest was to create unique lighthouse images, having felt that these are generally over-painted subjects. How many photos and paintings of Peggy’s Cove lighthouse can one appreciate in their life?
So my earlier efforts revolved around portraying views of lighthouses as they would appear reflected in water surfaces. Here are the two watercolour paintings from these efforts.
The first painting above is called “Surfacing”, 30” x 22”, watercolour. It was entered into the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour annual Open Water exhibit in 2004 and I was lucky enough to get it accepted and then doubly lucky to be awarded the H.K. Holbein Award for Innovation in Watercolour.
The second painting is called “Lighthouse Metamorphosis – the Riders”, 21.5” x 20”, watercolour. It was a further metamorphosis of the idea in Surfacing using the same lighthouse subject. The resulting image reminded me of a surrealistic view of a horse back rider but with all the visual nuances of the lighthouse still in the image. It was sold at a CSPWC exhibit in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia in the fall of 2010.
If you are still with me, the surplus lighthouses idea sparked a third painting in this series which I completed in January 2011. I wanted to portray the idea of the great loss which would occur if these lighthouse were to pass from our landscape. So, the visual concept was the lighthouses being swept out to sea. Here is the result, “Reflecting on Surplus Lighthouses”, 22” x 30”, watercolour. It has not been exhibited as yet and is for sale.
So I hope this gives something of an insight into one avenue that may be explored when looking for interesting subject matter. Keep your eyes and ears open for topics of interest in current events. Passages from books, poetry, newspapers, even magazines can spark a creative concept unique to your own way of expressing yourself. Don’t let these ideas pass – keep a notebook to jot them down for posterity.
Until next posting – I value your comments and would be happy to discuss any posting further.