Kaneohe, August 2015
How do I arrive at an image to paint? It can be an idea; a concept, a person, nature or a photograph just comes my way. No matter how or what, the antennas have to be tuned to receive. When I hang out with my friend Stephen Whitesell, a great photographer we often go through his photos. I only need to see a photo for a split second when I know that I love to paint it. So it was with one of Stephen’s photos, a set of waves rolling, in lit up by the setting sun.
Throughout the years I have painted or printed the surface of water. I have spent years looking at water, as a sailor, windsurfer, kite surfer or just for contemplation and I can’t imagine not living close to water. For nearly 40 years now I have lived on islands, water on all sides. I teach taiji on a peninsula in Kaneohe Bay, water on three sides. As a competitive sailor and windsurfer I learned how to read water to take advantage of its surface, wind gusts and shifts. Kitesurfing on Oahu’s north shore I am absorbed with watching the next set of waves emerging. Water surface is constantly changed by wind, the lack of it, currents and tides. My first look at the water every morning includes becoming aware in which direction the anchored boats point. Immersed in the creation of wind and water I feel most comfortable and alive.
When we look at water we take in the result of the influences of light, wind, reflections of trees, clouds, mountains. Water’s power in storms, tsunamis and floods is amongst the most awesome manifestations of nature’s power that we can experience. When we drink clear water or let it run over our skin or swim in it, we feel its blessings in most wonderful ways. When the waves calm after we throw a rock on still water, we can reflect on how our mind calms during meditation. Bruce Lee expressed his Daoist influenced philosophy like this: “Empty your Mind, be shapeless, formless….water can flow, water can crash, be like water my friend.”
After studying Daoism and taiji for more than 30 years and having done water sports even longer, all these things are on my mind when I paint water. As a painter I moved from abstract, expressionist, futurist inspired approaches through tight, realist portraits, flowers, landscapes to the desire to combine different techniques, brushstrokes, palette knives all in one painting and to paint……… like water, crashing occasionally, but mostly flowing, being like water, combine realism and abstraction in one swift motion.
When I started the Gold Waves painting, the linen surface was covered with several layers of oil paint from an attempt at depicting a reflection of mangroves on relatively calm water with small ripples. I had done a similar painting before, but in this one I could not establish the rhythm that I was looking for. Meanwhile I had piled on quite a bit of paint, some little hills of oil. These marks were completely unrelated to the new painting. When water hits an obstacle, it moves around it. The imagination works just like water; it finds a way to flow around an obstacle. I took the unevenness of the canvas as invitation to paint with freedom and abandonment, to pull and push the paint over the obstacles and let it flow. I worked with a limited palette, black white, red, yellow and some gold, and used brushes and palette knife, pushing, pulling letting it flow. This doesn’t mean that it was easy, but there was no real struggle. Towards the end I don’t look at the source photograph anymore. The painting has taken on its own identity; it has come alive. I made adjustments and added layer after layer until the painting told me that it was done, after 3 1/2 months.
It doesn’t matter if my inspiration comes from “running after a flock of wild geese” or “a date with Botticelli’s niece”, it is always freedom that I seek and this is how it feels, “when I paint my masterpiece.”
Quotes in italic from Bob Dylan, When I paint my masterpiece.
Since the response to the painting has been so great, I have decided to make giclees available. They come in three different sizes:
50″ x 64″ (127 x 163 cm) original size
25″ x 32″ (64 x 81 cm) half size,
12.5″ x 16″ (32 x 41 cm) quarter size and three different ways:
- Canvas – white edge. The image is printed according to size. The extra canvas area needed to stretch the print remains white. No stretcher bars. Easy shipping.
- Canvas – gallery wrapped edge. An extra printed edge can be seen on the side of the stretched canvas. No stretcher bars. Easy shipping.
- Stretched canvas – gallery wrapped edge. The canvas is stretched on professional custom-made wood stretcher bars.