At 12 years old vacationing in Wisconsin’s north woods showed me invisibly clear lake-water and streams. The rocks, crawdads, minnows and plants that lived in the clear shallows were magical haunts. I marveled that I could see them but also, wondered why the submerged colors were subdued. When I lifted a rock or crawdad out of the water their color spectrum broadened. They sparkled!
I noticed water in the shadows was impossible to see through. Only in the sunlight could I swim, wade and search the bottom for its treasures. Those water memories are rekindled weekly as walk along forest streams hear in Connecticut. The magnetism of nature’s transparent water has never diminished for me. The magical effect of surface matter sparkling over the submerged, color-tamed kingdom below still beguiles me. The water’s edge and my camera keep me focused.
I am not alone in my fascination with the contrast between shore and water, between the above and below the waterline, between translucence and bright opacity. These qualities have captured artists’ attention for centuries. I present Konrad Witz’s work to you as my first example. His “Draught of Fishes” from 1444 shows Jesus walking on water talking to his disciples. To confirm Jesus is walking on water Witz needed to show us objects and colors above and below the water. He does this with a semi-submerged rock, a semi-submerged disciple and submerged fish. We are given evidence of the appearance of matter above and below the surface in this very early oil painting on a polished wood panel.
In the 20th century Andrew Wyeth, a close observer of nature’s effects, tested the water. Here are two examples. Example 2 presents some quick watercolor sketches that address translucence and serve as a preparation for example number 3, Wyeth’s egg tempera “River Cove”.
My next three examples represent a slow progression of small changes to a work of mine, “Water’s Edge”. This is an oil on brushed silver enameled aluminum composite which is manufactured by Omegabond, Compbound, Durabond, and Dibond. Dibond is the original product.
In the sequence notice how I slowly add more subtle blurring to give a subtle sense of motion and to keep the image from appearing too tidy and tight. Initially I was also concerned that I do not show the two largest bright (above surface) rocks in the same horizontal plane so, I added another rock overlapping the left edge of the left-most bright rock. On the right I created a chain of bright rocks ascending and trailing off toward the back. You may notice my other changes as well.
I also invite you to my workshop “Explore Spectacular Flowers and Nature” with David Dunlop on Saturday and Sunday , March 23 and 24th at Artsplace in Cheshire, Ct. at www.artsplacecheshirect.org or call Joan or Karen at 203 272 2787.
You may also wish to join me at The Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra Beach in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida for my workshop “Natural Wonders” May 17, 18, and 19. Demonstrations in watercolor oil, acrylic and mixed media. This is a studio workshop. Call Sara Bass at 904 280 0614 ext 204 or register at www.ccpvb.org/programs/adult/adult-workshops
I invite you to my presentation “How Painting Evolves: 500 Years of Changing Purposes, Methods, Audiences, Sources, Materials, Tools Themes and Techniques” on Sunday, March 10 from 4:30-6:30 PM, $20. At the Silvermine Arts Center in New Canaan, Ct. call 203 966 6668 ext 2 or visit Silvermineart.org.