Cape May Paintings, Summer 2019

“What matters is that one be for a time inwardly attentive.”

—Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea


In August, my sisters rented a house near the beach in Cape May for a week, just like they did last year. It was a large house with room for many family members, and we had several full days of togetherness: cooking delicious meals, playing board games, and swimming at the beach.

Despite the festive vacation atmosphere, I was struggling with a lot of personal sadness. Craving solitude, I tried to wake up very early, before 5 am most mornings, in order to get to the beach before sunrise.

This is my favorite time of day; a threshold between darkness and light. At dawn you can feel, for a fleeting moment of time, that anything is possible.


One morning, my husband joined me on my painting expedition, and he took some photographs. Here I am, taping a sheet of linen onto a board. I had prepared an imprimatura of transparent cadmium red, which shows through in most of my paintings.

“Sunrise over beach dunes”    oil on linen mounted on board 7.25x10.75 inches

“Sunrise over beach dunes” oil on linen mounted on board 7.25x10.75 inches

Most mornings, there wasn’t another soul on the beach. The peaceful, repetitive sound of the waves was healing.

Lots of clumsy paint application, as you can see, applied with a palette knife and scraped away, repetitively. A constant pursuit of simplification…

“Lighthouse at Dawn”    oil on linen mounted on board, 6.25x9.5 inches

“Lighthouse at Dawn” oil on linen mounted on board, 6.25x9.5 inches

With my back to the waves, I painted the morning light just as the sun rose and hit the dunes. I painted very quickly, trying not to think too much.

“Beach dunes at dawn”    oil on paper, 5.25x8.25

“Beach dunes at dawn” oil on paper, 5.25x8.25

I did manage to get out one evening and catch a sunset. Despite the overcast skies, the evening was glorious. Quite a bit of sand got stuck in the paint because it was so windy.

There was one day I didn’t manage to get to the beach. Instead, I painted this water tower, which I could see from the front yard of our rental house. The actual tower had the words CAPE MAY printed on it, but I didn’t feel like putting words on my painting.

Now summer is over. My kids are back in school, and I’m trying to get back into my studio routine, without much success. The sadness hasn’t gone away, but I’m taking steps to deal with it, including a lot of self-care. Perhaps I can integrate my emotions into my painting practice.

“Water Tower   ”oil on paper, 8.25x5.5 inches

“Water Tower”oil on paper, 8.25x5.5 inches

“I walked far down the beach, soothed by the rhythm of the waves, the sun on my bare back and legs, the wind and mist from the spray on my hair. Into the waves and out like a sandpiper. And then home, drenched, drugged, reeling, full to the brim with my day alone; full like the moon before the night has taken a single nibble of it; full as a cup poured up to the lip.” —Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea