Before beginning Low Tide, Sunrise, I decided that the essence of the image should be an instantaneous, panoramic sweep. I wanted the painting to smack the viewer's eye with an elemental immediacy, presenting a luminous triad of air, earth and water—and then release the viewer to linger over details of tone and texture.
1. Composition Sketch
After priming my canvas with acrylic gesso, I sketched my composition with a diluted acrylic wash. Nibbling away at the image with brushes wouldn't give me the fast feeling of dramatic, holistic color chords I wanted, so I decided to use my Iwata spray gun. With masking tape and plastic sheeting, I covered the beach and water and then sprayed on the intial sky color with Golden liquid acrylic. In this photo the plastic has been pulled away, showing the first application of color. Before moving on, I remasked and continued spraying until I was fully satisfied with the sky.
2. Basic Coloring
Next I covered the sky and sprayed the basic light blue-gray color of the water over the lower canvas. My studio doesn't have a good exhaust system so I worked on the initial stages of the canvas outside.
3. Frisket Paper
Moving inside, I laid the canvas flat on a tabletop and adhered prepared frisket paper (waterproof tracing paper with an adhesive backing) to the painting's surface. Over the next few days, I cut the tidal-pool and runnel shapes from the paper with a frisket knife—which has a blade that rotates 360 degrees for cutting intricate shapes. The translucent frisket paper allowed me to see my acrylic sketch which was still faintly visible beneath the light blue gray that was sprayed on the lower portion of the canvas. Because this was merely a rough sketch, I was doing a lot of drawing and composing as I cut the frisket.
When I finished cutting, I pulled away the frisket surrounding the pools and runnels and then sprayed the exposed beach areas with dark, gray-browns. In this photo (above), the spraying is finished, and the tape, plastic and frisket-paper mask are removed. The basic color chords and the fundamental divisions of the composition are in place.
In this photo a number of different things have happened. Working with oil paint and a variety of brushes, I've painted the clouds so that they feel "meaty" and tactile compared to the spray-painted sky. To intensify the lower right of the sky, I mixed my oil colors with Grumbacher Alkyd painting medium and delicately blended them into the spray-painted sky, using a variety of soft, fan-shaped brushes. You can also see in this photograph that I have been subtly altering the luminosity and the edges of the tidal pools and runnels. The edges left by the frisket paper were too uniform and mechanical, so there was a lot of visual negotiation that went on between the paint of the beach and the paint of the pools to create satisfactory organic edges where the two came into contact. For the subtle tonalities and tide-carved surface of the beach itself, I dragged and pressured stiff paint (not thinned with turpentine or medium) with silicone-tipped Colour Shapers (Royal Sovereign). These let me create precise edges, where one color butts against another, and also smear colors together seamlessly - so the beach appears shaped by the surf rather than assembled from calculated brushstrokes.
5. Finishing Touches
Dragging and blending paint across an 8-foot horizontal canvas is an almost athletic activity, and the workability of the paint changes from moment to moment, resulting in a kind of give-and-take wrestling match. After about an hour, the paint is too dry to continue manipulating. The final appearance of the beach is the result of many built-up layers, leading to a dense, subtly striated opacity that stands in marked contrast to the deep, transparent luminosity of the sky and the smooth, mirror-like luminosity of the pools.
Originally I had included the diminutive figure of a fisherman off to the left, like a visual staple joining beach, water and sky. In the end, I eliminated the figure because it was too much of a visual magnet, preventing the eye from roaming freely along the beach in Low Tide, Sunrise (acrylic and oil, 30x96).
Born in 1947 in Washington, D.C., Jon Friedman received a bachelor of arts degree from Princeton University and a master of fine arts degree from Cranbrook Art Academy in Michigan. He has also studied at Corcoran Museum School and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. His works are part of numerous public and private collections, and the artist regularly appears in solo and group shows. During late 2007 and early 2008, the Cape Cod Museum of Art hosted an exhibition of his portrait studies on paper and his large landscapes. Several of his preliminary studies for portrait commissions were acquired by the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Friedman divides his time between his studios in Cape Cod, Massachusetts and New York City