Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Fish Tale: More Island Inspiration

Years ago, I spent hours underwater as a scuba diver while many a Midwestern lake or quarry and a few warm water locales floated in front of my mask. But it was long enough ago, that what remained were mere wisps of memory, more emotional traces than visual imprints. Until recently. 

The trip I took with family last month triggered something in me that won't rest. I feel as if I were set back in my native environment, my gills breathing anew after having flopped about on the beach of life. Having long been a tropical fish aquarist, I set up a saltwater tank (reef-friendly) to remain a bit closer to the source while continuing to draw inspiration from video and images shot on site and underwater. While not yet having a specific image in mind to make into a larger piece, I am exploring a variety of themes for which I created a couple of oil sketches. 

The first is based upon a pen sketch I published back in March just after returning, in which I was snorkeling in about 10' of water and leveled off at the bottom to swim up to the base of a coral-head. As I approached it a fairly large Green Moray Eel swam out to greet me. Lodged in my head is the moment she came rushing out taking me by complete surprise. 

Moray! 12 x 6, oil on panel

The other image is based upon one of many videos captured using my iPhone with a plastic-bag type affair. Though close to shore and fairly picked over, the diversity of life on the reef was none-the-less stunning. Every nook and cranny was filled with life as schools of fish worked their way around sea fans and coral, the scene caressed by the dappled sun. 

I hope it is none too soon before I once again feel the stinging of the salt in my eyes as I am bathed in the crystal blue waters of life. 

Karen's Cove, 12 x 6, oil on panel

A Quick Portrait and Remembering the Falls

While trying to get my feet back under me after returning from the recent trip, I returned to Richard Halstead's studio for a visit a couple of weeks ago. I was able to do an oil sketch of one of his regular models. Thank you as always Richard, for your kindness and ready access to your vast knowledge of portraiture and all things art-related.

Steve, Again. 9 x 12, oil on panel. 

Ryerson Farms Falls
As the snow took a while to leave the area and I didn't feel like donning warm clothes to paint outdoors, I decided to dig through some reference material taken over the past few months and came across a great series of photos I had take of one of my favorite nature preserves in the Chicago area, Ryerson Farms. If you haven't been there, plan on spending part of an day walking around their grounds, which includes a farmstead with a number of animals and fowl, a new visitors center and miles of walking trails in the Des Plaines River basin. 

At the end of one of the trails sits a cabin at the river's edge, sidled up to gently rolling falls. It was a fall day with all sorts of great colors, all reflected in the water on the upriver side of the falls. 

Ryerson Falls, 11 x 14 oil on panel.