Soundings - - Seascapes - OIL PAINT­ING BY ROBERT BECK — Steve Knauth

It’s well be­fore dawn in Maine, and 15 miles off­shore, in the early morn­ing murk, a Jone­s­port lob­ster boat is get­ting ready to go to work.

In “First Trap,” artist Robert Beck has cap­tured the sub­tle at­mos­phere be­tween night and morn­ing: the dif­fused light, the lin­ger­ing shad­ows, the chill in the air. “Things are fuzzy in the morn­ing — por­tions of the men dis­ap­pear into the shad­ows of the boat,” the artist says. He should know; he was there. “The sun was break­ing through the clouds by the time we got to the first lines,” he re­calls. “The two men paused to look out at the dra­matic sun­rise, and they com­mented about how beau­ti­ful it was, what a great place to work.”

Beck agrees. There’s no place to paint like Maine, and nowhere in Maine like Over East. The to­pog­ra­phy of the coast, the ro­man­tic bent, the sparse pop­u­la­tion and the way of life make it spe­cial.

“I fell in love with the Jone­s­port-Beals Is­land area be­cause it wasn’t in­flu­enced by the tourist trade,” he says. “It’s a fish­ing vil­lage. Ob­serv­ing and record­ing this com­mu­nity has be­come a way of life for me. I’ve painted in Europe, Africa and across the U.S., but I re­turn ev­ery year to Jone­s­port.”

To cre­ate the shift­ing light in his scene, Beck worked with oil paints on a smooth, gesso-cov­ered panel, us­ing glazes at the end “if I need to ad­just a color or value,” he says. “There was no spe­cific tech­nique to the way I got that morn­ing feel.”

And, though much of his work is done from life, he also cre­ates in the stu­dio, from imag­i­na­tion.

“My work as an artist cen­ters on the places, events and oc­cu­pa­tions of our time. Ba­si­cally, who we are,” Beck says. “I have been called a doc­u­men­tary pain­ter be­cause I of­ten set up in the mid­dle of dis­tract­ing and fluid en­vi­ron­ments and paint the heart of what’s go­ing on.”

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