Andrea here, musing today about light, wind and water. Umm, no, I’m not taking up meteorology as a second career. It's just that I’ve always enjoyed taking a daily walk outdoors. I find it clears the head in so many ways—it is, quite literally, a breath of fresh air for both body and mind.
And with the pandemic shutting down so many of our normal activities, I’ve found my daily walks have become even more important, both physically and mentally. Because of my art background, I enjoy observing the little visual details around me, especially the ethereal beauty of light, wind and water. The stresses of COVID have me appreciating those little everyday wonders even more. (Right: J.M.W. Turner)
“In wildness is the preservation of the world.” Thoreau’s famous quote feels an apt one for these times. The elemental beauty of Nature, with its constantly changing nuances, its eternal circle of seasons, reminds me that it has endured countless hard times—a comforting thought when so many stresses are swirling around us. (Above: John Constable)
These days, I take great pleasure in some of the very basic forces of the universe—sunlight, wind, water. I find myself paying more attention to the little beauties in their infinite variations. I tend to walk in early evening along Long Island Sound. Every evening the sunset is different—sometimes spectacular, sometimes far more subtle. And how the light and wind play over the landscape is, to my eye, endlessly beautiful. I always walk with my smartphone camera at the ready to capture small snippets that tickle my fancy.
Being attuned to the “atmosphere” of the outdoors has also reminded me of how much I admire some of the famous painters of the Regency era, who had the breathtaking abilities to depict the elusive beauty of sun, wind and sea. I really enjoy looking at art that celebrates the beauty of everyday landscapes, not just the grand panoramas or majestic buildings. It reminds me of how we are so connected to the world around us.
John Constable was fascinated by clouds, and did endless studies of their shapes and textures as they scudded through the sky, both in oil and in the much more difficult medium of watercolor. I’m in awe of his artistic skill—to me, trying to paint clouds is like trying to grab sunlight in your hands! Honestly, how is it possible to capture that quixotic moment of light hitting a puff of vapor? (Below-right: J. Constable)
A lesser known—but no less talented—luminary is Richard Parkes Bonington, an artist who passed away in his late twenties, yet still left painting of masterly beauty. I particularly love his scenes of the sea. I can almost feel the swirl of the ocean water and the sting of the salt spray blown up by the gusty breezes. (Below-left: R. P. Bonington)
But the grand master of light is, to my eye, J.M.W. Turner. Throughout his long and innovative career, he explored light and wind and water in so many guises. Early on, his work was quite figurative, and the slivers of landscape—a boat ghosting down a river—are riveting in how they capture the many moods of Nature. From still tranquility to squalling storms, his art resonates with a tactile feel that seems to defy the two-dimensional paper or canvas.
Right: J.M. W. Turner)
Some of my favorite Turner paintings are his watercolors of ports and harbors. What strikes me is how he renders the nuances of the air. I can feel the mist blurring the colors of the ship pennants, or the distant masts and sails. How great artists translate the ethereal details that their eyes perceive into pigment is simply magical . . . and we all can use a little magic in our lives.
Turner’s later work laid the groundwork for Impressionism. He became so fascinated by light that his work became “impressions” of its qualities, rather than realistic depictions of actual landscapes. It’s remarkable the depth and breadth of his vision over the years. He was apparently not a very likable fellow, but few can argue the genius of his art. (Below: J.M. W. Turner)
During my daily walk, I often wish I had the skill to paint a picture of what I see. I think one of the reason I love looking at art of sun, wind and water is the fact that their very creation by hand pays homage to the everyday beauties that we often take for granted. Instead, I just snap-snap with my camera! But still, I do take pleasure in looking at the here-and-gone moments I preserve in pixels.
What about you? Do you enjoy walking in Nature as much as I do? Have you a favorite route? And are you a photo-person, constantly stopping to record the things that catch your eye?