The Art of Daniel Ambrose

Hauntingly Beautiful Paintings

Coyotes on the Beach

by | Jul 20, 2017

Daniel Ambrose artist sketchbook. Venice, Fl. beach

I wake to the sound of rain. It lightly patters on the back porch roof while I boil water for my french press coffee. I pour it in my travel mug and wait for the coffee to seep. Four minutes. As I press the plunger down the rain stops. I head for the beach.

Thunder threatens from the south, more rain is coming. But I’ll wait and see what draws my eye. I’m good here, content with my coffee and sketchbook. Negative ions charge the moist air. A bolt of white lightning strikes the sea. The water a curious shade of milky green. It bleeds into a blue gray sky. Or is it a bit redder towards the east? Yes. And now I see the same tint in the water. A soft patch of sea oats to the left frames my field of view. It draws my eye down to a clump of morning glory in front of me, creating a composition of the whole

A painting is beginning to form.

I open my sketch book and feel my way around the scene with my pencil. Searching for shapes, lines, patterns. Searching for movement, something for my pencil to take hold.

Heavy cloud cover diffuses the morning light, bringing colors and tones closer together. Shapes of color flow into one another, making elements recede in space. It’s the morning glory. The darkest note—this emerald pyramid thrusts up to the sky, as if saying, rain, thank you for this rain. A magenta flower perches at the peak, like royalty. I follow it up, up to the sky, a cloud rolls in, echoing the form, the movement of this morning glory.

This is it, what I have been waiting for. I open my little wood paint box, and quickly begin to sketch the colors with my oil paints. Color notes, I call them. Simple memory triggers should I decide to pursue this idea in a tempera painting someday.

The rolling cloud and sky are very close in value, so color is the way to separate, to distinguish each shape. I want this cloud to be quiet, a thing to notice later. A painting is like entering a new room filled with wonders. The eye naturally goes to the brightest and biggest thing, and then seeking relief, will wander to the quieter places. A painting should take the eye and mind on a wondrous journey.

Now, three people enter the scene. A turtle patrol. They walk to a loggerhead turtle nest. The sand around it is disturbed. One of them kneels down and digs in the sand. He finds broken eggs. Coyotes. The woman tells me coyotes dig up the nests. It used to be raccoons, but now it’s coyotes.

Coyotes, here on a tropic beach?

I think of the coyotes I heard one cold night, yipping and howling on a ridge in the western North Carolina mountains. I stood outside on a stone wall I built, under a twin white oak, my breath condensing in the chill air. Listening in the icy darkness . . . yipping and howling. Was that night really almost a decade ago?

And now here we are on this tropic beach.

Me. . . painting a morning glory, and damn coyotes digging up turtle eggs.

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