Sueño del Mar: evolution of a painting
On Playa Langosta, Sueño del Mar (I Dream of the Sea) is a lovely, romantic little inn which has become a regular breakfast stop every time I go to Costa Rica. The food is delicious, the people are very friendly and if you’re planning a honeymoon, this is the place to go.
This time, I just happened to take some pictures of the bird of paradise plants growing along an outside wall. While I was in Costa Rica, I did a quick sketch. Not bad, but too representational for my current taste.
Back in New York, while I was thinking about how to make this more abstract, it hit me that the flowers and leaves in my sketch reminded me of fish swimming among the seaweed. So I did five larger sketches … but they looked too much like the original, even though they also now looked a little more like fish.
Stumped, I took them to my abstract watercolor class at the Art Students League and asked Frank O’Cain, my teacher, for advice. His suggestion: pick the painting I liked the least and use a bigger brush to paint over the red flowers with big broad strokes, establishing a rhythm. OK, much better, but no cigar.
In the meantime, the palm tree trunks in the background were reminding me of how Asian artists paint bamboo, which in turn reminded me of the huge Chinese brush I bought at the Shanghai Museum.
So I started over, using my big Chinese brush for the first time to paint the two pink palm tree trunks/seaweed. Wow! I loved the effect. So I added the big rhythmic strokes for the red flowers/fish. Now we’re getting somewhere. The green leaves are looking more and more like smaller fish. A little transparent yellow in the upper right and lower left corners feels like sunlight shining down into the water. Very pale blue strokes here and there feel like currents in the water. Oops. The leftmost red fish is too strong so I wash it out a little with a wet paper towel and then add just a hint of the alizarin of the other fish. Now, a couple of the fish/leaves at the bottom look too strong, so I wash them out. Then I soften the green center fish/leaf a little and add some transparent yellow.
What a difference. I can’t believe how much I like this now.