Lighthouses are such iconic images on Cape Cod that one imagines they provide the ultimate challenge for a Cape Cod artist.
How to render something so familiar in a way that’s fresh and unique?
Falmouth artist and illustrator Garison Weiland has taken aim at the daunting task and come up a winner. He has created a series of 12 Cape Cod lighthouses, all of them sublime. While the images appear to be rendered in almost a minimalistic style, it is also evident that the artist’s attention to detail is intense. I don’t mean the detail of every brick that makes up the structure of each building, but rather the details that make these illustrations come alive, such as crisp lights and darks, and reflections, shadows and angles that draw the viewer into the scene.
Mr. Weiland began the series, “Lighthouses of Cape Cod,” in earnest last fall, when he was recuperating from cancer surgery.
“I needed a project and the lighthouses came to mind. I’ve always wanted to do a series about Cape Cod and this seemed to make sense,” he said.
He began with Cleveland Ledge, the 1943 lighthouse named for President Grover Cleveland that sits on the Bourne shoreline in Buzzards Bay, eight miles south of the Cape Cod Canal entrance. Mr. Weiland referred to the now privately owned lighthouse as a “noble structure” and although the lighthouse is weather worn due to constantly being at the mercy of the elements, Mr. Weiland did enough research about the structure to “redescribe it” in his illustration.
Careful research is how Mr. Weiland tackles most of his projects.
“It’s part of my background as an illustrator,” he explained.
Mr. Weiland created the lighthouse series on his computer using the Photoshop application.
When you are designing something in Photoshop, Mr. Weiland explained, you can’t really call it a painting or a drawing, so he refers to the images as illustrations.
“My technique is to draw the images using Photoshop. You can draw lines, but I work mostly using squares and circles,” he said.
Mr. Weiland said he does not start with a photo that he then manipulates, adding, “You can tell that technique right away.”
He also uses the computer’s mouse rather than a drawing pen or a stylus, which he finds less responsive than the mouse.
Working from several different photos of each lighthouse, many of them that he’d taken himself, Mr. Weiland studied the structures at different angles, different times of day and under different weather conditions.
Each lighthouse was a combination of the different photographs.
Mr. Weiland said that he chose different angles and times of day for each illustration so they wouldn’t be uniform. “I created the atmospheres,” he said, adding, “I wanted to capture the different kinds of unique light you find on Cape Cod.”
As he worked, Mr. Weiland found that the clouds in some of his illustrations were becoming less representational and more whimsical. It was a look he liked. Mixing the photographs with his own imagination to create the finished illustrations was a way for Mr. Weiland to personalize them.
“It’s the way I bring myself into the image,” he said.
In addition to Mr. Weiland’s unique ideas about how to capture the lighthouses, the illustrations were created with a nod to the different personalities of each structure, which Mr. Weiland discovered through the research process.
Nobska Light, for example, is very minimal, while Chatham Light has more detail and its presentation is more front and center. Mr. Weiland chose that style for Chatham because of its history as a working US Coast Guard station.
“I wanted it to look more formal,” he said.
Although Provincetown lighthouses Long Point and Wood End are both square tower lighthouses, Mr. Weiland feels the lighthouses had very different personalities.
Mr. Weiland said Long Point, which faces the harbor and the town, has a masculine, “defiant” look to it and chose to portray it at night. He illustrated Wood End, which he feels is more “feminine and welcoming,” in the light of morning.
One of Mr. Weiland’s favorite images in the series is Stage Harbor Lighthouse in Chatham. He likes the atmosphere in the illustration, “the light and the clouds, the way the grass looks as if it’s being blown.” Another detail is that there is a small light on inside the house. Viewers can imagine their own story about what’s going on in the scene.
Among his inspirations, Mr. Weiland cited artists Paul Schulenburg of Eastham and Hillary Osborn of Pocasset. Mr. Weiland said he appreciates how both of these artists capture light and deal with shapes and color.
The 12 lighthouses included in Mr. Weiland’s “Lighthouses of Cape Cod” series are Wood End, Sandy Neck, Race Point, Nobska, Chatham, Stage Harbor, Cleveland Ledge, Long Point, Lewis Bay, Highland, Nauset and Monomoy.
The images can be purchased individually as 8-by-10-inch limited edition giclee prints using archival paper and inks. It is also possible to purchase a glossy 18-by-24-inch poster of all 12 images together.
The illustrations are available on Mr. Weiland’s Etsy site—search for Illustrated Lighthouses of Cape Cod. Mr. Weiland will also be selling the images in person at the Woods Hole Craft and Farmers Market on Saturday mornings at the Old Woods Hole Fire Station beginning June 7 as well as at the Sandwich Artisans Arts and
Crafts shows at Sandwich Public Library later in the season.
Mr. Weiland has also set up a Facebook page, “Illustrated Lighthouses of Cape Cod,” to showcase the images.
With the lighthouse series complete, Mr. Weiland said, he’s working on ideas for other series based on other Cape landmarks such as old homes or the canal.
“There’s a lot out there,” Mr. Weiland said.