Late yesterday afternoon and then again all last night a terrific storm passed through this island. Helpless boats tramped at their moorings and became swamped. The Alexander Mackenzie bashed heavily against the skimpy dock. Fortunately I was able to beach her and get her pulled above the highest tide.
The barometer had dropped hard. There was a black cloud swelling out from the north. Emily the Airedale had been acting strangely. The morning’s painting had been peaceful pools and tranquil reflections. Then the storm took center stage. It’s what happens to things that makes them interesting: Trees writhing like dervishes. White crested waves surrendering their tops. A tug and her barges gamboling by at twice her speed — barely able to keep ahead of her rope.
The search for effective art is often merely the search for the adjectives that we can put to our nouns: blown seascape, driven rain, fallen giants, frowning clouds, rolling grass, trembling leaves, escaping crows. We all claim our own. Some of these combinations are commonplace; some are unique and specific. On other days there may be playful children, wizened characters, dedicated hunters, speeding skiers, delicate dancers. In the roulette-wheel of world and mind there can also be tortured memories, shocking dreams, troublesome fears or personal angst. In the art business there are no restrictions and we are but the conveyors of the more valuable emotions. In life and art a passing storm helps to spin the wheel.
Back in the woodland cabin my wet clothes are drying around a spanking hearth. In the distance I can hear a neighbor bucking and clearing the alders that fell across our roadway during the night. A few people are moving around the island, picking up the pieces. Sweet sunshine.
PS: “The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reasons for staying ashore.” (Vincent van Gogh)
Esoterica: At times like this it’s good to trust the skies. John Constable said there was a lifetime in them. While they are plastic and moldable, they can be loaded with anticipation, fear and anxiety. And everything below a horizon line is infected with their moods.
This letter was originally published as “Passing storm” on May 7, 2002.
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“There is nothing ugly; I never saw an ugly thing in my life: for let the form of an object be what it may, – light, shade, and perpective will always make it beautiful.” (John Constable)
I am very happy to be teaching two workshops at Casa Buena Art Retreat Center again next year. Register for one or stay for both.
THE FIGURE – Feb 20 – 27, ’19. Enjoy working with a live model using dry media. We will deal with proportion, measurement and likeness.
PLEIN AIR – Feb 27 – Mar 6, ’19. Paint authentic Mexico – village life, beaches and landscape. We will deal with composition, light & shadow, color, value and more.
Cost: CAN $1800 + GST. Includes instruction, some art supplies, accommodation, all meals, transportation to and from Puerto Vallarta airport, visits to surrounding areas, a jungle boat ride and a lot of fun.
Contact Jane Romanishko firstname.lastname@example.org for the extra 3 day “no-pressure” painting option.