Ever painted on the South Coast? Robert Abele III says the light there is matched only by that in Venice, Italy.

Lead Image: “Adamsville General Store,” by Robert Abele III, 2014, oil, 16 x 20 in.

Abele grew up in Westchester County, just north of New York City, and he visited Cape Cod many summers growing up. “My whole life I have gone to Cape Cod and we just flew past the South Coast,” he says. “Then I met my wife, who grew up in Dartmouth, and I fell madly in love with this place.”

 “Smith Neck Rd., Dartmouth,” by Robert Abele III, 2015, oil, 12 x 12 in. Private collection
“Smith Neck Rd., Dartmouth,” by Robert Abele III, 2015, oil, 12 x 12 in. Private collection
“Sailing on Buzzards Bay,” by Robert Abele III, 2015, oil, 6 x 8 in. Private collection
“Sailing on Buzzards Bay,” by Robert Abele III, 2015, oil, 6 x 8 in. Private collection

The South Coast is the stretch of coastland south of Cape Cod, stretching nearly to Connecticut. Abele lives in New Bedford, the town next to Dartmouth. He paints the beach, farms, the harbor, boats, vineyards, and most of all, the architecture of the area. “I love the historic whaling homes,” he says. “Painting houses is perhaps not as marketable as other subjects, but I have to paint what I enjoy. They say paint what you love. I will always go back to architecture.”

Abele painting on location
Abele painting on location

Abele speaks reverently of Edward Hopper, and his paintings of buildings do suggest the strong light and shadow in that master’s work. Many of Hopper’s pieces include a figure, suggesting a narrative, and Abele says he is moving toward that. “I don’t put a lot of figures in my paintings — that will come later, and I’m not rushing it,” says the artist. “I have been painting clusters of people, though. I paint groups of maybe 40 people, at town fairs, for example.”

“Winter on Main Rd., Westport,” by Robert Abele III, oil, 11 x 14 in. Private collection
“Winter on Main Rd., Westport,” by Robert Abele III, oil, 11 x 14 in. Private collection
“New Bedford Fishing Boats,” by Robert Abele III, oil, 16 x 20 in. Private collection
“New Bedford Fishing Boats,” by Robert Abele III, oil, 16 x 20 in. Private collection
“Nonquitt Cottage,” by Robert Abele III, oil, 12 x 16 in.
“Nonquitt Cottage,” by Robert Abele III, oil, 12 x 16 in.

He moved to the area in 2010 and has found that a surprising change occurred with his painting process: he tinted his canvases differently. “We tend to tone our canvases with a warm color, often brown or orange,” says Abele. “But if you are going to paint outdoors, the tint should be the color of the light. In the South Coast of Massachusetts, you get beautiful violets and blues in the shadows. Being by the coast, the sun reflects off the water. So I started toning my canvases more blue or purple. The overall undertone of the painting itself resonates differently up here than it does anywhere else.”

“Block Island Light,” by Robert Abele III, oil, 12 x 12 in.
“Block Island Light,” by Robert Abele III, oil, 12 x 12 in.
“My Way Fishing Boat,” by Robert Abele III, acrylic, 12 x 12 in. Private collection
“My Way Fishing Boat,” by Robert Abele III, acrylic, 12 x 12 in. Private collection

Abele has a 5-year-old son and a newborn, so time is an issue these days. “I do a lot of watercolors at the beach,” he says. “I don’t have much time to choose my subjects.” That will change now, with Labor Day past. The visitors to the Cape and surrounding areas will go home to New York and New Jersey, and Abele will lead plein air painting groups to areas kept more private and exclusive during the summer rush. Abele will be in a rush then — painting the light before winter brings with it an altogether different palette.

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