That Raking Light / by Jeannine Cook

I live on the site of an old oyster cannery, which allows an immediacy with the salt water creeks and wide-flung marshes that is unusual. Living with the rhythm of the tides and hours, you become very aware of the play of light across the spartina grasses that make up the marshes. Since the house faces almost due east, we can watch the sun rising further and further north, from behind a long barrier island opposite us, as mid-summer arrives, and then the slow retreat again to winter.

All this play of light has made me tremendously aware of the amazing power of raking light for art. Sunrises, for me as I face east, are dramatic but it is the late afternoon sunshine that creates the marvellous scenes. Slowly, the marshes become more and more luminous, and even without the clouds which are often so majestic, the sense of space is heart-lifting.
Because the coast is so flat, the low horizon almost becomes an integral part of any painting. Inevitably, any landscape painting of the marshes becomes about light and space, whose drama causes one to pause. The scale of man to landscape becomes very much tipped to nature, a balance that is good to remember.
The key ingredient in so many of the scenes I witness, on a daily basis, is this raking light across the marshes. Its drama is urgent, powerful, but quietly insistent. It makes me return, again and again, to try and capture coastal landscapes of enormous beauty and mystery.