When I paint portraits I worry as much about the landscape as I do about the person. Sometimes getting the background right is the hardest part.
It matters because the background helps set the painting in a moment in time and is crucial to capturing the mood and character of the subject.
I’m currently working on a portrait of a young boy who lives in Bermuda. I posed him on a wall overlooking the harbor as a way to reflect his connection to sailing and the sea.
But I found myself struggling to capture the particular nuance of blue that is unique to the island.
What makes the island’s color so crisp and vibrant is the purity of color. The landscape lives in saturated pigment. Unlike New England, where colors are blues with more earthy reds and ochres, Bermudas’ colors range from pure cereleum blues and ultras-marine blues.
The range of blues are pure pigment and it goes from a slightly brilliant warm greener blue to a slightly warmer redder blue as the light carves the waves.
All colors, and particularly blue, run in shades of warm to cool. The challenge is to not lose the intensity of the blue as you add other colors. I was working with a fairly typical range, ultra-marine blue, a red blue and cereleum blue, a yellower blue.
I shared my mounting frustration with my mother. She is one of the few people who would understand. She is a fantastic landscape painter. She often paints sea scenes that are stunning in their unbelievable truth.
I wanted to harness the intensity as I modeled it from cool to warm.
The water offered a beautiful play of blues that were incredible intense and dynamic. The water color warmed around the land and then turned towards violet as the current picked up in the deeper water.
A week later, I found a package at the door of my studio. Carefully wrapped up in bubble wrap were five tubes of a variety of blue. All were saturated pigment intense crazy dynamic. It was such a gift. I spent the rest of the day playing in blue. I regained my bearings in the color of Bermuda.