Recently I have been rummaging through some sketches, and I was surprised to find so many from our years of staying in a cabin on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Every year we made the trek just after Labor Day. The car was so crammed with everything we needed—or thought we needed—that when we stopped for groceries in Sooke, BC, I, the passenger, had to carry all the bags filled with bread, salad, milk, etc., on my lap.
There were many paintings, made in great detail, from the beach, until I felt that I had painted a portrait of each and every grain of sand. (All but one of the paintings have been sold.)
But these sketches range from a rather free swing of gulls over rather freely executed waves:
to precise small ink drawings:
top, a very large rock that we lounged on one afternoon; center, the ‘elephant’ rock at low tide, when we could walk around the front. From the back, up to its ‘shoulders’ in water, the rock appears as the head and back of—an elephant; bottom, the rocks going out from the beach.
The tide, abstracted.
Looking across the Strait of Juan de Fuca toward the Olympic mountains on the U.S. shore.
Often one finds that the sketches and wild watercolors give one the sense of lying in the ‘chaise’—a shelf of rock that was my favorite lounging spot—that I am watching the waves, the tides, the gulls, and this offers an immediacy that even the most vivid memory does not.
I used to stand on the beach and want fiercely to turn my molecules into rocks and sand, and stay until the waves washed them away.
But the last time we made the trek, I stood on the beach and thought, I’ve drawn and painted every grain of sand, every rock, every wave; I’ve turned them into my molecules and I will take them away with me.
And so I have.