Philip Koch, Deer Isle, oil on panel, 5 x 10", 2008
This was painted on location last summer up in Maine. Like all my paintings it is extremely truthful to how it felt to me as I stood before the source. In art, that's the only useful meaning truth has.
In reality the left shore divided itself into three major planes (foreground, middleground, background) as if it had read from the same book I had back in school. So far so good.
The water at the right was another story. Usually when faced my open expanses of water, I just wait, knowing sooner or later a pattern will appear in the ripples that will provide a surprising but appropriate shape. Not this time. I painted on this for three days on and off and... nothing. I have a fallback for when the source won't cooperate. It is a large bag I carry with me full of memories of shapes and colors I've seen other places in nature or in other painter's work. It's heavy to carry in addition to my easel and the paints, but painters are nothing if not tough. You gradually collect great ideas and store them in this bag.
Rummage around near the bottom and pull out different shapes and try them on the offending passage in your painting. Just keep trying things on and eventually something will fit. This painting seemed to like adding three pyramid-shaped islands to fill the right side's void. Of course their color had to echo some of the hues found at the left side.
I was thinking today of our long ago ancestors, those brave souls who kept it together for all those eons before the invention of agriculture. They made a living by seeking out edible tree bark and roots. Now these were people who knew about searching. The ones that were good at it survived. As we go about filling our bag of good ideas, let's remember we carry the genes of these venerable old hunter-gatherers in us. Fill your bag carefully in their memory.