Big Sur and the Failure of Sight-Size

Here a few of the sketches from Big Sur this week. Local painter Mark Farina showed me Garrapata Beach where I ended up painting a number of pieces (Garrapata means ‘tick’ in Spanish which is rather ironic since I spend most of my summers trying to avoid Lyme disease on Shelter Island).

garrapata Big Sur and the Failure of Sight Size

Garrapata Cliffs. Oil on linen. 14 x 10 in.

garrapata morning Big Sur and the Failure of Sight Size

Morning, Garrapata. Oil on linen, 10 x 14 in.

Big Sur has huge views. To get a decent composition you often need to capture about a 90 degree viewing angle, which is impossible to paint on a small panel using sight-size, even with one’s nose pressed up against it. Most sketches I do on small panels occupy about 30 to 50 degrees of my field of view (normal human filed of view is 160 to 200 degrees), and sight-size works perfectly in those instances.

garrapata surf Big Sur and the Failure of Sight Size

Garrapata Surf. Oil on linen, 8 x 12 in.

To sight-size a 90 degree field of view would require about a 6 foot canvas to work on at a comfortable distance which, in high winds coming off the Pacific, would lead to a whole ‘nother set of logistical problems.

The following two sketches of Pfeiffer Beach, for example, completely fail to capture the grandeur of the scenery.

pfeiffer beach Big Sur and the Failure of Sight Size

Pfeiffer Beach #1. Oil on linen, 10 x 14 in.

pfeiffer beach2 Big Sur and the Failure of Sight Size

Pfeiffer Beach #2. Oil on linen, 8 x 12 in.

That last one especially would have been the guest of honor at the after-painting turps party, if it wasn’t for plan B: I’ve been doing detailed drawings at all these spots to figure out compositions and hopefully, between that, the color sketches, and reference photos, I’ll be able to make something of them in the studio.

In the meantime, I’m back to focusing on smaller views.

monastery beach Big Sur and the Failure of Sight Size

Monastery Beach. Oil on linen, 10 x 14 in.

point lobos Big Sur and the Failure of Sight Size

Point Lobos Sketch. Oil on linen, 10 x 14 in.

I’m using very the very nice (and expensive) Classens-mounted-on-dibond panels from New Traditions, and a mix of M Graham, Old Holland, and Williamsburg colors. I find that some colors are better than others across brands.

Big Sur and the Failure of Sight-Size was last modified: November 18th, 2010 by Marc Dalessio

14 comments

  1. Marc, I especially like the way you’ve been able to create the feeling of heft and surge that the Pacific has. These should make wonderful material for studio paintings.

  2. Beautiful works! Also the Carteret County, all the sketches are very much alive and interesting to the eyes. How long do you work on one? approx’

  3. thanks for posting these, which are beautiful.

    I am going in June to paint at pt. reyes, so it’s good to have an idea of the challenges beforehand! I hope it is still green then.

  4. I really like these sketches, and painting all those rocks!.. you make it look easy as usual. These are full of energy, they’re simple and vibrant, like ‘em. I’m looking forward to seeing them in the studio.

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