Ending 2017 in the Ocean

I had never painted an underwater landscape before this year. And my first one was 180 feet long by seven feet tall! This is a small section of a mural for Motts Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor. The mural utilizes a special paint that gives the water and fish a glowing quality. Much like regular landscape painting, the colors fade off in the distance, only with water, the fade off is much faster and is more blue in tint. I was struck by the variety and populations of fish in the reefs. Although for my painting I assembled the very best combinations of color and texture, I was still was only able to capture a very small section of the massive variety of reef creatures.

My studio changed considerably during the painting of this mural. Every morning I looked forward to coming into the studio, which had transformed itself into a large aquarium. The colors were comforting and calming. I was delighted with the creatures as they emerged and developed. Some plant life I made up...just because I could...challenging any divers, who may one day visit my painting, to identify the strange growths.

The fish took on personalities and seemed to watch me as I painted, ate lunch and closed up for the evening. At times, they seemed to float and move. This mural was more real than any other I have done. Not because of realistic rendering, but because of the nature of painting water itself. It is fluid and floating. The patterns invite the eye to move and dance about the painting, not lingering too long in any one place.

The mural was painted on large sheets of special material and rolled up as each 30 foot section was completed. As I started on each new painting, there was a grieving as I rolled up the brightly colored completed section revealing stark white walls again. I wanted to start the next section as soon as possible. I found myself rushing to get the background water across the entire 30 feet within one day, just to take the bland whiteness away again. I missed the calm, floating feeling the light rays through the water gave in my studio.

The mural is installed at Motts now, and the studio walls are once again a stark white. I don't go into the studio much these days. I find it hard to be in the space. The murals brought life and light to it. And I was never alone when the fish were there with me.


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