If it’s drizzling, I paint on the fantail. If it’s a nice day, I paint forward, by the focs’le. At sea or at a safe anchorage, forward is the best place. Sometimes I get tea or something brought up there. The captain keeps an eye on me from the wheelhouse. At anchor, I have my fishing lines out, giving the illusion of multitasking.
On Laredo Inlet there’s a tight anchorage called “Bay of Plenty.” Laredo was named in 1792 by the Spanish explorer Jacinto Caamano. “Plenty” is known for an abundance of crab. It’s also a spot with plenty of islands. There are Common loons, Marbled Murrelets and Mew gulls. Bears snag migrating salmon in the rapids at the top of the bay.
Recently, not on this trip, while working in front of people, someone asked, “What’s going on in your head?”
“Not very much,” I had to admit. At the time it was the usual fantasies and wandering aberrations. But there are always conscious concerns — like efficiency. In my case, I premix my acrylics in yogurt cups to span from one painting to the next. In the Bay of Plenty, I’m premixing plenty.
On the boat, leisure is useful provided you combine it with hard work. I find myself taking longer to choose my brushes, and I’m more deliberate in their use. As you get older, you find your natural rhythms changing. For example, these days I’m drinking less, but more frequently.
While trying to maintain the basics of composition and colour, it’s also a good idea to think of virtues like elegance and freshness. None of these can be counted on to automatically show up. What’s going on in your head? Painting is a matter of thinking of one thing while you’re thinking of something else.
It’s also eternal vigilance for something to go right. Often it has to do with form. Or maybe it’s just noticing something in the work that’s a bit different. In any case, artists need to develop a personal sensitivity to passages of interest. Finders keepers.
I notice something going on with one of my lines. When I get the thing on deck, it’s a sea cucumber, twisting and writhing in its bumpy red and yellow skin. I give the creature back to the mystery below. Even in the Bay of Plenty, some days there ain’t no fish.
PS: “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” (Alexander Pope, 1733)
Esoterica: By spreading yourself over several jobs at once, you amortize your creativity and give each work the advantage of contemplation over time. Amazingly, when you pick up a painting that has been abandoned for a day or two, you can often cut right to its problems and solve at least some of its weaknesses. This is also a good time to ask what more might add interest or depth to a composition. No matter how difficult the puzzle, you still have a fair degree of control. You need to keep your options open, ask “What could be?” and leave your lines in the water.
Bay of Plenty
A miracle we dare not miss
by Henry Phoenix, London, UK
Bay of Plenty is a metaphor for our world as artists. It is the greater world so filled with wonder and opportunity. To be alive like this in these times is such a privilege. To be functional artists we need to be sensitized to our world. This is no time for misery. In the great cities or away on lonely inlets, we are blessed with a miracle which we dare not miss.
by Tiit Raid, Fall Creek, Wisconsin, USA
What is in your head while painting? In my case I find that my eyes do the thinking, while the other parts of the mind are on the back burner, the farther back the better. It is believed that 70% of our sensory faculties are devoted to the sense of sight. My experience shows that the more accurately and actually I see the visual order that naturally exists everywhere around us, the better my eyes ‘think.’
The stimulation of diversity
by Suzie Gordon, South Africa
I live in a fairly remote village in South Africa about 2 hr. from Capetown, It looks like an old English village, tiny thatched roof cottages, donkeys horses and cows that roam the streets but less and less as some folk in the village forget the reason for them coming here in the first place and now want all the latest developments in housing structures and amenities.
My cow is called Wall Flower as she does not eat flowers and of course is on the wall and on her own! She dresses up for all occasions in the village and has to be the most famous cow in the world and most photographed one too!
The greatest joy of living with so many cultures here is the amazing talent joy and diversity that stimulates one, it is a challenge living here but it allows us to give help and uplift the less fortunate which is not always possible in a first world country and we live better than first world folk!
To savor this beautiful land even with the struggle of “are we safe” ?, we live a different life, perhaps on the edge but there is always beauty and laughter on the faces of the people and in the landscape so life is a joy and with your thought provoking letters I have it all . I am off to do a mural in a rural village where one white lady who is starting a library she lives among the folk, she is hated and loved and I have the chance of bringing joy to the little faces with a big tree a Wise Owl who I think I will name Robert and the rest is for the kids to paint, flowers apples, bugs, and butterflies.
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Into her cups
by Odile Burton
OK, I will share. Buy one Caesar salad at the café inside Costco… keep the container with lid. Eat lots of premade jell-o’s from the grocery store or throw them away and keep the cups. Mix the paints you use and small amounts of water inside each cup. You can store up to 5 cups of paint inside a container with the lid fitting correctly. You can even tip the whole thing at an angle to some degree with no spillage. My paints last for weeks this way!
(RG note) Thanks, Odile. An abundance of yogurt cups is the top secret killer app of the acrylic world.
More into her cups
by Claire Holcomb, Maryland, USA
How my days are spent fascinates me. Somehow in reading other people’s comments on their own, brings me an inch closer to my own. I spend an hour working on one sentence. Then two hours recovering from a difficult hour with a patient in psychotherapy. Then, hah, go on line and order an on-sale tote bag; lingerie; and a sweatshirt on sale for winter, down from sixty dollars to twenty. My red wine is handy. So is our dog, Annabelle, who, when I stay up, splits time between me and Mike, my husband. She is a caring dog. Ten years old. Now I head to WORD to try a first attempt at describing the mother in law I want to include in the memoir of MY Alcoholic Marriage. Quite a woman — good and not so good. I’d need lots of yogurt cups to capture her complexity.
Why not pre-mix?
by Barrett Edwards, Naples, FL, USA
I had an epiphany the other day while participating in a plein air paint out. Smallish canvas (9 x 12) but I realized I kept mixing new piles of paint as I moved from one area to another. And each new pile was different from the last. I was moving further and further from my color plan because I became wrapped up in the composition and values. Why not, I thought, pre-mix larger piles that — because I take the time before painting to decide my color harmonies — would not only speed my painting along but also ensure that I maintain my original color harmony decisions? And, it helps. At least for the feeble-minded like me.
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Thankful for the gift
by Jackie Lee, Sonoma, CA, USA
When I first began painting I would have a preconceived notion of what I wanted it to look like, I even had drawings ready. As the painting progressed it mysteriously changed from the original plan. This continues with every painting. It’s not my voice that’s doing that … it’s the voice of our Source, the creator of every wonder around us, seeping into our brains, ready to access magically when the time is right. Others may find their voices through lessons and practice — I find mine just by listening to someone else’s and recognizing it as the gift it is. And being thankful every day.
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You can go back again
by Doris Weed, Waupaca, WI, USA
Yes, I always go back to rework a painting after several days, be it oil, acrylic or watercolor. If I’m not satisfied with the progress it will most likely turn into something or get the boot. It seems more interesting to me to think on this level, I hate the word “multi tasking.” Is this a sign of a disorganized mind? I find it somewhat strange myself. But variety is the spice of life… even if you catch no fish.
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Painting in the zone
by Brenda Behr, Goldsboro, NC, USA
Many artists talk about “getting into the zone” in order to paint. Painting puts me in the zone. This is what I love about it. I’ve done transcendental meditation. Painting is the closest thing I know to TM; for me, it’s another level of consciousness.
My thinking stage is generally at the approach of a painting. Here are some of the conscious thoughts that went into Reflections on a Creek. 1) Here is a landscape with water in it that I might add to my documentary series of paintings of Eastern North Carolina. 2) This swamp is kind of creepy. Better ask a friend to accompany me. 3) The great blue heron on the bank up stream is beautiful, but he will become the focal point that I don’t want, if I include him in the painting.
I consider myself an alla prima painter. Stopping and starting a painting for me is like being interrupted in the process of making love. Will I be able to go there again? I hate going back into a painting. However, I do admit, getting away from it for a while, is what we often need to do in order to better see what we have [or don’t have]. Reflections on a Creek was done mostly en plein air. It looked much softer before I finished it in my studio. Finishing touches and crisper detail gave it some spark.
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Featured Workshop: Dan Schultz
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You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.
That includes Guy Fehr who wrote, “Fishing (multiple lines) and painting (multiple canvases) at the same time. Now that’s inspiring.”
And also Jack Lemire who wrote, “Leisure is no good for folks who always must be producing. Work is leisure.”
Enjoy the past comments below for Bay of Plenty…