My sister said that when the tide was out you could walk all the way to America; the waves pulled back that far. So far that the starfish forgot there ever was an ocean and stiffened with dismay. So far that the seaweed wept itself dry on the rocks with nostalgia.
Imagine all the people you meet in your life. There are so many. They come in like waves, trickling in and out with the tide. Some waves are much bigger and make more of an impact than others. Sometimes the waves bring with them things from deep in the bottom of the sea and they leave those things tossed onto the shore. Imprints against the grains of sand that prove the waves had once been there, long after the tide recedes.
Ah, well, then you’ve never stood on a beach as the waves came crashing in, the water stretching out from you until it’s beyond sight, moving and blue and alive and so much bigger than even the black beyond seems because the ocean hides what it contains.
My newest painting is called Out of the Deep Waters. It’s about the interplay between external reality and the unconscious that produces both life and art. I chose a limited color palette here, dominated by shades of blue, brownish reds and yellows. This color palette and the subject matter itself strike me as vaguely like those of some indigenous peoples, but I can’t quite place them.
There are two fields in this painting, the underwater realm and the realm of the sky, separated by large waves of sea foam. Below is the deep blue ocean, darkening into black and peopled with various shapes. Near the surface is a strange vessel, perhaps a shell, or, in my mind, a piece of ancient pottery or basketry. It is just barely beneath the waves and seems to help shape them. Lower down, an angel fish swims gracefully past, followed by an unusual figure that appears to have a head, fin, and tentacles. A fish tail and body dive away from our eyes, plunging deeper into the darkness and off the side of the painting. Is this a whale, a fish, or a mermaid? We can’t get deep enough to tell. In the bottom lefthand corner lies a shining treasure, which we also cannot comprehend. Is it something floating there, or is it the ocean bottom?
Emerging from the water is a tremendous figure that dominates the picture. This creature represents the Self. Its tail remains in the water, but most of it rises majestically into the rusty reddish air, a shining kite like shape with branched arms that come from its sides. The creature’s right side is yellowish, perhaps illuminated by the sun, pictured here as a large sunflower. The creature’s left lies in shade and is a dark reddish brown. At the center of the being is a small blue chevron which looks rather like an upside down heart. The blue chevron reminds me that the center of my being is the subconscious, which is akin to the great blue sea of unconsciousness below it.
Next to the shadowed side of the Self, a paintbrush drips into the water, dripping a dirty yellow on to the fish tail below it, which swims away, anxious to stay unrevealed. The brush is draped with a deep blue cloth that blows in the wind. It is interesting to note that items in the water echo the red color of the sky, and items in the air that of the blue water. This, for me, represents unity and the mystery of interconnection between inner and outer worlds. Art is of both realms.
The yellow shades I interpret as illumination, which comes from an exterior source, separate from the air and water but present in both, and indeed, in every figure here. The sun is yellow, but contains a darker center, similarly the buried treasure is not only comprised of brilliance, but of the ordinary (brown).
As always, I practice automatic painting, which means I do not plan before I begin applying color. That means my subconscious is very deeply involved in what appears on the canvas and that I frequently miss things that it is trying to manifest. So, if you see something that speaks to you or recognize a symbol I may have missed, please let me know about it.
Lover’s language, give me an exact and poetic comparison to say what those eyes of Capitu were like. No image comes to mind that doesn’t offend against the rules of good style, to say what they were and what they did to me. Undertow eyes? Why not? Undertow. That’s the notion that the new expression put in my head. They held some kind of mysterious, active fluid, a force that dragged one in, like the undertow of a wave retreating from the shore on stormy days. So as not to be dragged in, I held onto anything around them, her ears, her arms, her hair spread about her shoulders; but as soon as I returned to the pupils of her eyes again, the wave emerging from them grew towards me, deep and dark, threatening to envelop me, draw me in and swallow me up.
― Machado de Assis, Dom Casmurro
View the latest in ocean simulation as featured at the GPU Technology Conference last month, the real-time, Beaufort Scale simulator called WaveWorks by Nvidia. Programmers now have the ability to make waves respond to wind. If you saw the gorgeous film Life of Pi you have seen such technology in action.
This article from PetaPixel features a beautiful set of photos taken at a very slow shutter speed by David Orias near Ventura, CA. He takes them at dawn with a long telephoto lens, and the resulting detail, color and pattern of the ocean waves are exquisite.