My diary entry today finished with, ‘I do love steering my little boat into the making waters, day by day’.
The image of a boat is both a soothing and unsettling metaphor. The lonely boat out in the big open sea—fear of the unknown, of failing, of crashing and not surviving. The soothing part is that there is a boat that can take me somewhere, somewhere new. It always means a journey, a voyage to an unknown place. It means leaving the familiar behind and being carried into unfamiliar waters.
I’ve been part of a small group of women who meet to paint or draw ‘en plein air’. Our usual place is a small beach—a pebble beach with black rocks sticking out of the sea framed by two headlands. We sit under a Pandanus tree where each one engages with the place in her own way. I am mostly pre-occupied with the black rocks and the little bits and pieces of debris lying around that are bleached by the sun; shells, sponges, rocks, leaves, bits of seaweed. I notice the detail in what is decaying and discarded, that are still hosts to tiny life forms which pattern and adorn them. Wind, air and water caress them until they morph into the ground.
Most of all I just like being there. Every time is different. Once we set a date it is a commitment, even when the weather turns and we just stand and marvel at ‘our wild beach’ and scramble up the nearest headland.
At the beginning of this year, after a very high tide, the pebble beach was swept clean of all this sweet debris and leafy matter. Only the rocks and pebbles remained and they were clicking and clacking as the waves sucked them in and pushed them back. It sounded like talking and chattering. The sea giveth and the sea taketh, I thought.
It was windy that time and we just tried to hold onto our drawing paper. Just being there and partaking was exhilarating though. It was good to be out and about in the weather. It was good to be with others interested in art-making and supportive of each other in this endeavour—our shared need to make art.
These outings have been a good balance to pottering alone in my studio and in my own head.
Some ‘makings’ are emerging from my tentative beginnings with rough hemp thread, the colour white, muslin and my inspirational assortment of weathered bits of nature and debris. My pre-occupation as always is with process—this time with ageing, fading, impermanence and absence, how little remains.
Last Thursday at pebble beach a little boat drifted by—someone’s fishing vessel, travelling gently upon the sea.