Bay of Plenty

Dear Artist, 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.

“The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.” (Robert Louis Stevenson)

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.

Into the dark mystery of the surrounding forest. “Lions and tigers and bears!”

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.

Time for reflection in the Bay of Plenty. Native cultures found this a place of abundance.

Best regards, Robert 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

“Nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” Kenneth Grahame, “The Wind in the Willows”


M. Y. Mareva at anchor in the Bay of Plenty. Plenty quiet around here. Maybe a little too quiet.


Waiting patiently for migrating salmon to leap. “Hope springs eternal in a bear’s breast.”


More precious islets with ready-made design and more than sophisticated colour. How to possess them?

            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.   Visual order by Tiit Raid, Fall Creek, Wisconsin, USA  

“Wilhelm Barns #3”
acrylic painting
by Tiit Raid

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  

pastel painting
by Suzie Gordon

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. There is 1 comment for The stimulation of diversity by Suzie Gordon
From: Sarah — Jul 30, 2010

This is an exquisite portrait!

  Into her cups by Odile Burton  

“Blue bonnets”
watercolour painting
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  

“St. Simon’s Mood”
oil painting
by Barrett Edwards

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. There is 1 comment for Why not pre-mix? by Barrett Edwards
From: Jo Vander Woude — Jul 30, 2010

Love your color choices!

  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. There is 1 comment for Thankful for the gift by Jackie Lee
From: jcb — Aug 10, 2010

I think I know what you mean. What I end up with is hardly ever what I had previsualized. I don’t know if it’s simply a lack of discipline and technical skills on my part, something taking over, or both, but I usually prefer the result.

  You can go back again by Doris Weed, Waupaca, WI, USA  

“Forest Path”
acrylic painting
by Doris Weed

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.     There is 1 comment for You can go back again by Doris Weed
From: Rochelle Mayer — Jul 30, 2010

What a beautiful painting, I just wish I was there at that particular moment to witness the mist rising amongst the trees.

  Painting in the zone by Brenda Behr, Goldsboro, NC, USA  

“Reflections on a Creek”
oil painting by Brenda Behr

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. There are 2 comments for Painting in the zone by Brenda Behr
From: Marie B.Pinschmidt — Jul 30, 2010

Brenda, I’m with you. Painting blots out all the other clutter in my mind causing my tea to grow cold, and even mutes the television if it happens to be on. I can cook and chew gum at the same time but I can’t paint with expression if I’m not “in the zone”. I like your Reflections on a Creek. You captured a mood; the heron can wait for another painting.

From: Anonymous — Jul 31, 2010

Thanks, Marie. When I feel the need to get up for a cup of coffee, I know I’m working, not painting.

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Bright Angel

original painting by Sharon Wareing, Victoria, BC, Canada

  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.”    

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Bay of Plenty

From: Susan Kellogg — Jul 27, 2010

A friendly competition is usually going on right below the surface of my consciousness; a competition between words and pictures…often when I paint, titles bubble up! Sometimes they are apt, sometimes they indicate a critical attitude, other times they are hilarious.

From: Richard Smith — Jul 27, 2010

When I’ve got several works on the go at the same time, I find I’m always eager to get back to whatever I’m not working on. So I’m always looking forward to something.

From: Thierry Talon — Jul 27, 2010

I like to have several paintings on the go.

From: Pierre Pigalle — Jul 28, 2010

The main benefit of multi-painting is that you tend not to overwork. By working on several there is always the desire to go into others that you have out of the corner of your eye. And there is a better chance of reining up early and keeping all things fresh.

From: Ben Mitchell — Jul 28, 2010

The eternal vigilance thing is where it’s at. Most of the artist’s job is to watch out for things that might be working and keeping them while eliminating those things that don’t work as well. Particularly as painters get old they omit this part and stop seeing what it is they are doing. Paintings get out of whack and the problems are not seen because the painter is not lurking.

From: Sig Hampton — Jul 28, 2010

It is very often the most useful when that something else in your head is music. Different artists use different kinds of music. Music sets the mind free to operate in the right brained mode. Detroit

From: Brian Warner — Jul 30, 2010

Doris, when I was at school my teachers told me I was not paying attention. I think their take on me was a better explanation than “multitasking” :)

From: Linda Powers — Jul 30, 2010

Switching back and forth between watercolor and oil seems to keep both supplied with new ideas and keeps both processes fresh. Sometimes I work out a problem using the opposite medium. Sounds strange, but hey — whatever works!


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