Erik Koeppel, Bald Head Cliff, oil on panel, 11 x 18 in., Collection of the artist

By Erik Koeppel

I stopped for a couple days in Ogunquit, Maine as part of a painting excursion that included many of the age-old artists’ haunts along the Maine coast. An artist friend had previously told me that one of the best places to paint in Ogunquit is the Bald Head Cliffs.

Erik Koeppel, Grey Day at Bald Head Cliffs, oil on panel, 12 x 16 in., Collection of the artist

I accessed the beach via the Cliff House hotel and made my way down. The first afternoon was very grey, and resulted in a moody dark painting (above), a not uncommon sentiment to the Maine coast. I decided not to give up on the spot, and gave it another go in the morning when it was much lovelier. The result was “Bald Head Cliff” (shown at top).

Like many of my outdoor paintings it then sat around my studio for months and months while I waited for the inspiration to know what to do to finish it. Because I don’t work from photographs, it sometimes takes time, imagination, and memory to envision the proper mood for a painting. Ultimately what stuck in my head was the rosy atmosphere of morning, contrasted against the deep green of the northern Atlantic. My memory of the morning was peaceful and comfortable, and I worked to bring that out with the easy smooth rolling of the water against the shore.

I’ve stumbled across numerous nineteenth-century artists’ interpretations of the cliff, including Howard R. Butler (American, 1856-1934). For example, it turns out the spot was frequently painted by historic artist, Emil Carlson (1853-1932). He no doubt stayed at the historic Cliff House.


Erik Koeppel teaches the painting techniques of the Hudson River School Masters in his Streamline Art Video.

See more of Erik Koeppel’s work on his website.

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