Birds to Boats

The water flushes of the deck after being covered
The water flushes of the deck after being covered

Growth can happen in strange ways.  I was painting White Birds of Paradise en plein air. I packed my wooden paint box, easel and survival equipment in a backpack and looked for a natural setting to paint my desired object. Now it’s getting a little hot outside, but for a while the weather was ideal to do this. I feel that painting outdoors is very spiritual, as the ceiling of the universe gives a feeling of limitless possibilities. Mostly when I go home after such sessions I am tired but I also am fulfilled, as if somebody gave me a precious gift.

I chose the White Birds of Paradise from my subconscious mind as it goes with most subjects. The events that followed were probably also designed by my subconscious mind because they surprised me. I found the flower cut off when I went a third time to capture it in oil paint. To me this was a sign that I needed to go to the studio, stay inside and paint more loose and colorful variations, especially after a client said she’d like to see this style of painting.

I made a series of large semi-abstract paintings, not knowing where I was going with the idea, but enjoying it. Somebody told me that this was the kind of work that could get me into galleries and I wanted to get into a gallery to sell my work. With high expectations of some success in this direction I called photographer Heidemarie Burke who documents all my work. I decided to get the pictures, put them in a magazine and spread the word about this new and exciting course of events.

web j-class-52On Sunday she called off our session for the first time ever. Staring at all the paintings I wondered why this happened. I looked at the work again and thought, “This is not finished yet, that’s why”. I started reworking the paintings until dusk. Than, at the very last moment I saw something in the abstract shapes that looked like a reflection of a building I had seen long time ago in St. Malo. I heard a voice loud and clear asking me, “What do you really want to paint?”

I thought of my love for classic sailing boats and especially the new J-Class series that stole my heart in St. Malo. When I looked at some photographs of the yacht “Rainbow” I saw the resemblance to the shape of the Birds of Paradise, the same curve, the same pointed nose.The petals could have been the sails. I thought, “Maybe I really want to paint these boats”

The next day I started painting sailboats and I haven’t stopped since. All the rejections from potential buyers, jobs and other forms of income made sense to me now. When doors keep closing, there is a reason. All these failings are telling me I am supposed to paint sailboats. My world immediately expanded, because this is a niche that not only has defined buyers, it has universal wisdom, romance and beauty. There are galleries devoted to this subject and I can talk easily with potential buyers about my experiences at sea. When I was young I photographed offshore races for major magazines. I am familiar with classic sailing destinations like St Malo or the Azores. It felt like a bridge between where I am and the world I feel I belong to. I am combining the art world with the world of high class adventurers.

It may sound easy and logical, but this caused a deep personal crisis. I realized that in my search to find my niche I was trying to be someone I wasn’t. There were legitimate reasons why I always had rejected the idea of being a marine painter. I thought it would be boring to work from photographs, copyrights would cause trouble and there is a lot of competition. Many talented painters dedicated their whole life to marine painting. And yet, I believe I can express my own unique style painting this subject. It’s expansion and I’m excited.

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