Pigeon Point Lighthouse, north of Santa Cruz, CA

This painting was done early in the California portion of the tour, but I like beginning and ending the portfolio with lighthouses. My cousin Julie and her husband Ron, in Santa Cruz, provided a safe haven for downtime during the tour. I stayed with them for a couple of nights, for my third stop in California and enjoyed getting to see them. They made it clear that I didn't have to feel obligated to make them a painting, which was nice -- especially the first day, when I was too dehydrated from exploring the coast the previous afternoon to do anything but sit around with a bad headache sipping water.

But just before leaving on the second day I realized I wanted to paint something for them. I did this tiny painting from memory - a lighthouse I'd noticed and sketched on the drive down. I chose the subject partly because it gave me a chance to get a good effect very simply, and I only had 20 minutes to work.

It turned out to be one of my favorite paintings from the tour. By good coincidence it also turned out to be the spot where they'd gotten engaged some years ago.

I usually try to avoid stereotypically picturesque subject matter. Lighthouses can be hard to resist, though. When a lighthouse is around, people sort of expect you to paint it. Or you think they do.

I distinctly recall, on my first IAP tour through New England, passing by a strange scene involving bushes and a wall and unusual lighting -- something I found visually electrifying that no one else would notice. That is exactly what an artist should paint! But I had time for only one painting, and there was a lighthouse nearby. The lighthouse painting I ended up doing was blandly pleasant, a testament to creative self-betrayal (a temptation that is always lurking). Ron and Julie's lighthouse, however, was a different matter. Its shape and coloring helped to articulate something beautiful about the subtle light and the time of day. It suggested a little tone poem. I had my own reasons to want to paint it.

and the time of day. It suggested a little tone poem. I had my own reasons to want to paint it.