I was walking along my favourite beach last week, taking a few days vacation, and reconnecting, with relatives and with myself. Rest and conversation do a lot to reignite the soul. We walked the beach and the long pier in White Rock, BC. As we walked out on the pier I noticed this design scratched into the sand below. But it wasn't just scratches. It was perfectly designed. Everything symmetrical. And big! See the seagull sitting at the top of it? It must have taken quite a bit of time. The tide was out and there was lots of room to create it, but I realized whoever did it knew it wouldn't last. Eventually the tide would come in again and wash it away. And I wondered about the desire to create and leave one's mark. A desire so strong we are willing to do it in places where it is temporary and fleeting.
Is it the same with everything we do? We are here for a while, a shorter while than we realize, and we spend much of our time either avoiding that fact, or trying to create something that will last. Either way, it isn't us who last, at least physically anyway, but it's possible that our work can have an effect that goes beyond our lifetime. And so I come back to one of the most important reasons I paint - to say something that will affect others, something that might be passed on, and in essence make change for the future and for the better.
Back in 2013 I was in New York City and was spending an afternoon at The Met, especially lingering in a room full of Rembrandt paintings. The one I stayed with was a self-portrait, one of many that he had painted. Standing right in front of the painting there was a strong sense that I was standing in the same place Rembrandt once did. As he painted this piece, he stood where I stood. And in sharing the same space, there was an exchange between us. The realization was astonishing and the power of what he had done, the marks he had made, touched me deeply. I'll never forget it. Rembrandt is gone. And yet, he is not.
I always hope somehow l can do the same, each time I start a new painting I think I am just beginning to do that, to communicate at a level worthy of sharing. Even though I know past work has resonated with others, the next piece is always about wanting to express something new or at least something else. It's about working out what is ruminating in the soul and hoping that in some way it is recording new and deeper insight. And if it's insightful, maybe, just maybe, that insight will last beyond my lifetime.
Why we have this urge to say something I've not yet fully articulated. Being around artists makes it easier to see that there is a collective soul, something bigger we are all a part of. Something everlasting. The person who made their mark on the beach that day, knew the work wouldn't last longer than the incoming tide, and yet the work was done anyway. Maybe they hoped enough people would take a picture to help make it last longer. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who recorded it. I wonder if this person knew how much they were saying? Or if, like me, they too are always searching for the right way to express a knowing and longing too deep for words....
Note: I've connected with this beach artist .... I wish I knew who they were. (If you know then do tell, so I can give credit where credit is due.)