cozumel, dead of winter– even though it has yet to go 7:00 the sun is just tipping below the horizon. i am en route to the flamingo hotel (which i have re-christened as the flaming O) to see my friend frenkie, a guitarist and banjo player who is trying to keep the candle of traditional banjo and guitar music (not to mention the celtic harp) burning– interspersed with some of his own compositions. he is a true madman, obsessed with his goal– but being an artist myself, i find obsession to be the one true thing about the universe, and so i support his efforts and enjoy his music whenever i am able.
ANYHOW– there i am, in a hurry to find a parking spot when i am totally TRANSFIXED by the efforts of the sun to plunge below the horizon beyond the muelle fiscal (the public pier where the passenger ferries to and from the mainland dock)– i had been searching for a new idea to paint, and i realised that this was it. i jumped from the truck, in a hurry to snap an image– however, i am a little late and what i get is actually a minute or two past the idea– however, it was as good as i was going to get– see the image above.
for a change i didn’t do as complicated a sketch for this piece, thinking i could do much of the work en scene– i also realised i would have to do some very experimental (for me) work to produce something i might like. there is many a time i wonder why i do this to myself, but it seems to be my modus operandi. the sketch still took some time, as always i envy those with a native ability to draw, but it is pretty much all work for me.
as i worked on the canvas, i had sudden “dejá vu” flashes, but it took a little while before the reason dawned upon me– kitsilano!! vancouver, when i lived there in the early 70s, 3rd between cypress and maple. i would walk down to the ocean, around where the planetarium is, sit along the beach and gaze out over burrard inlet at the west end. whereas the ferry docks here are mellow and soothing, burrard inlet is a positive RIOT of colours, all back and forth, quite electric, reflecting the west end like the business end of a busted high-tension cable. sometime in the late 80s/early 90s i did a pen and ink piece to try to bring it to life, but not entirely well if memory serves me right– wish i remembered who has it now so i could take a look.
and then there was the matter of brushstrokes– the past few paintings i have done i have concentrated upon brushstroking, and i had some new ones in mind when i began this piece.
you can see how they began here, somewhat emanating from both sides of the centre mass of the docks themselves– verticals for the sky and water and horizontals for the land, docks and grounded boat. however, as i made my way down the line with the painting it became increasingly apparent that it wasn’t much working, and so some new brushstrokes arose and made themselves familiar.
the sky grew dark and so did the sea, the bank of clouds behind the docks muddy and the land indistinct, the image a little boring.
and so i brought the light, sparingly at first, but gaining in momentum– i had a lot of fun with this particular stage, as i felt confident in where i as going and how i was getting there. but when i began bringing the light down into the water i ran into a glitch– brushstrokes again– and needed to take a little break before continuing. i spent the time beginning to paint in the ferry depot itself, mostly a mass of light like that on the end of an arcing welding rod
so intense the light that there were halos of it all down the line, all the lights glittering and even bouncing off the sleeping ferry boats themselves. here i got the first real intimation of what it was about this scene that had caught my attention– the depot was actually just an extension of the sunset, the maw of a huge glowing crucible with the sun just over the lip.
then the REAL fun began– bringing the reflections of the depot into the water– i had envisioned this process many a time, but it took a lot of sitting and looking at the canvas at times, changing my theory, evolving the image.
but finally i finished it and signed and dated it, left it standing on the easel. i wasn’t happy with my results, but i was unsure what it was that bothered me so much. so i stared at it….. and stared at it….. and then STARED AT IT for a good week or so, coming to the conclusion i didn’t like the reflections in the lower area– it took me some time to figure out what i wanted to do and more than one pass to make it happen
so now it was TRULY finished– or was it? i had an injury that required my laying on the couch watching old movies for a few days, but the painting was close by, and i suddenly knew that the problem was with the middle reflections of the light in the water. when i could stand again for longer periods i did an experimental paint mix to see if i was somewhere around the right tone– i liked it so much i just used it, then remixed it a little darker and did one last pass and– VOILÁ!!– “puesta del sol, muelle fiscal”– sunset at the government pier