Thursday, November 29, 2012

In the wake of it all

Portland Head Light on Sandy's Heels
Original oil painting  18x24"
by Susan Roux

It was the day following the hurricane.  

I was down in Portland helping my husband hang his photography show. It was nearing noon and he wanted to swing by the lighthouse to snap a few photos of the ocean. The sky was dark. Not my idea of a perfect photo shoot day. As we drove in the winding road of Fort Williams Park we could see huge waves spraying off the fort. Wow, I'd never seen spray like that! It must have reached 30' or more in the air. 

I was surprised to see the parking lot so full. Mike is known to be a storm chaser, but I don't usually tag along. Who would have known there were so many storm chasers? Typically he goes on the following day. I'd have a hard time letting him go during a furious storm, though if it were up to him he'd probably be there. Just as we approached the lighthouse, the thick gray sky opened up. Everything suddenly lit up. The lighthouse brightened into a shooting white tower against the blackened sky. Such drama! The ocean appeared strange to me. The roaring sound seemed to overlap itself creating a stereophonic harmonious rhythm. It was filled with unbelievably powerful energy. Relentless energy. I was deeply moved. The froth it stirred resembled whipped cream. From the safety of the tall cliffs I watched in amazement. The sun shone brightly in the opened sky and all of the lovely sea foam sparkled spectacularly. Mike told me it was high tide and he'd planned to be here at this particular moment. Little did he know the clouds would open briefly for all the shutterbugs gathered. 

The drama was so breathtaking, it was beyond words. How could this scene of beauty be the culprit of the disastrous effects only a short day ago? My emotions were mixed. I felt guilty for finding beauty in what caused so much suffering for others. But it was beautiful. Spectacularly beautiful...

The cliffs circle around the foamy area. When we stood facing the huge sprays, it resembled snowballs exploding like giant fireworks. There was so much froth generated that rather than a typical spray splashing, each droplet became a clump of froth. It was a scene like none I've ever experienced. The sunlight created soft delicate shadows within the clusters. I stood there watching and watching. Wave after wave the energy persisted. I prayed for my friends caught in the disaster. I prayed for everyone caught in it.

It's in moments like these that I recognize how tiny we are. Like little specks on a huge planet. The forces of nature are no match for us. I felt humbled. As the ocean persisted my thoughts drifted in so many directions. All the while, viewing spectacular beauty...

Just as we began to return to our car, the sky closed back up and all became dark again. For photographers, it was a gift of light.

Our photographs could not capture the feeling of being there. The sounds, the cold gentle spray reaching us at times, the ocean's strength and energy couldn't be contained in a still shot. Yet we had a record of being there. 

I began this painting that night. It's been difficult trying to capture my emotions from that day. As usual my art photography is lacking and what you see here is just an echo of the actual painting. It is filled with light and every pastel color you could imagine. 

Recently in my post titled Red, I spoke about popular subjects that have been painted over and over again by artists. The Portland Head Light certainly qualifies as one of those. But you can expect that if I paint it, I'll be giving you a different version than what you're used to seeing. This one is no exception. 

I apologize to anyone this may offend. Know that I'm not insensitive to the horror Sandy caused. I just needed to paint and share my own experience, in the wake of it all.


  1. beautifully done! both the painting and the post!

  2. Very interesting post !!!
    Great experience and very wonderful painting !!!

  3. As we know, to get your Maine State Artistic License, you have to paint the Portland Head Light-- and you did a beautiful job! Just think- I could've bought it when you were peddling it from the trunk of your car...

  4. Susan, you have painted not only the beauty but the awesome power and spectacle of this moment - breathtaking!

  5. Very different sky-I like it! Such an iconic scene.

  6. Since so many of my friends are left with no homes to go home to since Sandy, this is an emotional post but an absolutely beautiful painting, Susan. There was a full moon that night so you were able to see the sky so clearly and it looked very much like the sky you painted..beautiful and powerful!
    Unfortunately, because of the moon, I was able to see the surge of water rising..The clouds were moving just like in this painting...again, beautifully painted.

  7. J'aime cet technique de peinture, vous la maîtrisez très bien et je suis en admiration de votre savoir faire, votre talent excelle , cette mer si lumineuse m'enchante, votre toile est magnifique!
    Très bonne semaine à bous.

  8. Cela fait longtemps que je ne suis venue vous visiter! C'est un tort: votre tableau est très bon, l'atmosphère est superbe. A bientôt.

  9. Great painting ,I love the atmosphere and how you have captured it all with your brush.


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