Five Tides

Harbor, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 14x11

Harbor, acrylic on canvas, 14×11

Sun God, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 11x14

Sun God, acrylic on canvas, 11×14

THE SOURCES OF INSPIRATION in the Cape Cod dunes are as multifarious as tides, and equally mysterious, guided by forces ethereal (moon phases), and elemental (ocean currents, distant storms).

High and low tides arrive reliably twice daily on these shores, at roughly six-hour intervals. But where they end, the intensity of their waves, and what washes up on the beach are never the same.

I paint with regularity, gradually over time achieving greater consistency, recognizable style and themes. But the sources are many, and they are often unpredictable.

In some cases the idea for a painting surfaces full blown (“Straw Hat”); in others, the original concept takes an unexpected turn along the way (“Weeping Woman”).

Voice Mail, Dunes, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 14x11

Voice Mail, Dunes, acrylic on canvas, 14×11

Sometimes the idea appears unformed, seemingly from nowhere, an unnamed energy or emotion like a lightning bolt suddenly stabbing the stone-flat sea: 30 seemingly innocuous words (or less) of a familiar voice heard during my daily phone check (“Voice Mail”).

Other times, without preconception, the painting reflects my particular mood or circumstances (“Sun God,” painted during a blazing hot day).

Weeping Woman, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 14x11

Weeping Woman, acrylic on canvas, 14×11

Sometimes, what begins as an exercise in color, form, and brush stroke gradually coalesces into a unified theme (“Harbor”).


These examples are some of the work I completed during my recent two-week stay at Boris’s shack in the Provincetown dunes.

Straw Hat On Table, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 20x16

Straw Hat On Table, acrylic on canvas, 20×16


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