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Rocky shores by Robert Genn

Rocky shores
by Robert Genn

I'm laptopping you from a 27-foot sport-fishing boat near the mouth of Quatsino Sound on the Pacific side of Vancouver Island, B.C., Canada. Right now we're being slammed around in 10-foot swells while a moderate Southeaster whistles foam from the wave-tops. It's difficult to paint in these circumstances, but not impossible.

Focusing on a canvas while in a boat that rolls heavily can cause the chucking of cookies, so the necessity of keeping an eye on the horizon conveniently slows down your work. Heavy seas also invite the use of larger brushes and definitive, fully-loaded stroking. Little brushes are harder to use and can jerk unwanted lines in inappropriate spots. A well-lubricated support helps facilitate control and fluidity. It's also necessary to grasp forms, subjects and motifs before they move on. The waves crashing on rocky outcroppings and fleeting light-effects (this coast is fully loaded) necessitate developing quick habits. The screen on the back of a digital camera also chips in as reference. I discover acrylics can be effectively dried using the boat's windshield fans.

Further, because the motifs are fleeting, the work tends more toward ideas and feelings. In the action between brush and canvas, desirable abstract elements present themselves somewhat automatically.

All this time we're supposed to be fishing. I find the painting-fishing combo to be particularly fine. Fishing can be 10% action and 90% sitting around. Charles Williams of South Carolina, my fishing partner for today, is currently landing salmon and halibut from both rods. Another nice thing about painting in fish-boats is that you don't personally kill a lot of fish.

Delicate stuff like signing and final varnishing can be done back at the lodge. I like to accumulate them in my room day after day. Sticking to smaller canvases--11" x 14" and 12"x 16"--I find the obvious material comes in the first days; the more interesting, fresher stuff toward the end. The worst thing is running out of canvases, something that's going to happen early in this trip. My buddies (eight of us altogether) welcome my return to rod-holding as I've been neglecting to take part in the betting.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: "Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." (Kenneth Grahame, from The Wind in the Willows)

Esoterica: The viewpoint from boats moving past subject matter, no matter how erratic the boat, is one of the great events. The surf, as it climbs and descends in white rivulets from black rocks, ancient bearded cedars and hemlocks triumphing from sea-stack tops, pale and weathered veterans of the forest--the permutations and combinations seem endless. In wild places such as this, the elements contrive to present themselves as they've always been. The early English and Spanish explorers of this coastline and the aboriginals who called it their home would have been party to the same vistas, the same details. Such are the privileges of those who bounce and look. The painter kills nothing, leaves the place as it was found, and honours it for having been there.

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Robert Genn has given ARTAZINE permission to post from his twice-weekly newsletter. For more of his artistic insights, visit his blog at www.painterspost.com.

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