Winslow Homer, The Winter Coast, 1890

In the gathering morning I was eager to get out of our house, the blizzard had passed in the night leaving the snow piled high and the wind still blowing under scattered clouds. My wife worried that I’d end up in a ditch somewhere as she watched me disappear down the snow covered road. As luck would have it, it wasn’t long before I met with a snowplow, already on its way to free us from the storm’s icy grip. As I reach the main road, I realize the danger of being held captive wouldn’t have lasted long, for every pickup I pass has a plow bolted to the front bumper, on a mission to clear every inch of snow.  Even at this early hour, the dirt road to my destination—a seaside preserve—was plowed (or rather, marked as someone’s territory) all the way to the car park.

Frederick Judd Waugh, Rocky Coast and Sea, 1907

Like a crow, I high-step through the deep snow making my way down a white path carved through frozen and thorny wild roses, towards the roar over the ridge. At the mouth of the cove I pause to watch tide and wind battle as waves furiously wrestle un-seen forces, going nowhere. As I top the hill, the cold wind bites full force and the ground seems to shake beneath my feet. I feel small here—land, sea and sky battling for supremacy.

Winslow Homer, Driftwood, 1909

The tremendous waves, driven for miles by the storm, crash against the unforgiving shore; to heave, withdraw and heave again, beating down, time and time again upon the solid rock. Here, in this place, they can go no further. Heavy clouds speed above, free of gravity’s bond. Beyond—where the sea grows calmer—a line of light suddenly illuminates Brimstone Island, it’s snowy crown flashing in the light. Suddenly it goes dark, as the light races on across the shadowy waters. Towards me. On me. On skyward spray. Gone. 

George Bellows, Approach of Rain, 1913

This battle between land, sea and sky has fascinated artists for generations. Particularly, Maine and the Atlantic Coast drew artists to it’s weather, land and seascapes.

Thomas Birch, The Shipwreck, 1837

Leon Kroll, Monhegan Seascape, 1913

John Singer Sargent, Mid-ocean, Mid-winter, 1876

Frederic E. Church, Rough Surf, 1850

Abraham J. Bogdanove, Rocky Coast, undated

George Bellows, Blackhead and Sea, 1913

I feel intimidated and powerful at the same time standing in the storm, and with so many artists that I admire who tackled the elements. I think of the famous picture by Turner, impressionistic and moody far before the impressionism movement, where he is said to have strapped himself to the mast of his boat to experience and capture the storm.

JMW Turner, Snow Storm, Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth, 1842

Take the work of Winslow Homer, where painting is not the only answer, but about a constant and obsessive search within. The ocean was his eternal and fomidable muse.

Winslow Homer, West Point, Prout’s Neck, 1900

Winslow Homer, Northeaster, 1895

Winslow Homer, Watching the Breakers, 1891

The clouds move away & the white-tipped waves calm themselves to gentle swells marked with foamy tendrils. The sun’s rays illuminate the scattered clouds, now fading entirely. It is time for me to go home, away from the coast and back to the humid soft spring that awaits me in Texas, fields already dotted with budding wildflowers. Although I have a love of all seasons, I feel regret leaving the icy sea and its fury—appreciating all the amazing painters who have captured these tantrums of nature for us to enjoy long after the storms have passed.

The author’s watercolor of a stormy sea