A few years ago - cannot believe it's been that long, I found a yard of bright blue canvas in the scrap pile of a fabric store somewhere in Virginia. I thought it might be interesting to paint a portrait of an elephant with vibrant colors on it. This was around the time clear gesso became popular, so there was a wave of interest in painting on any surface that could be gessoed... well at least that was what was going on in my sketch books.
After I picked up some stretcher bars at a local art store, I stretched this beautiful brilliant blue canvas over the bars, and covered the canvas with Winsor Newton's clear gesso... I couldn't wait for the brillant blue surface to be dry and ready for my vibrant elephant.
Although Winsor Newton's clear gesso dries clear -- it also dries a little milky if you are slathering it all over a colored canvas... Slathering is the key word. I believe one coat would have worked fine, but in this case, the clear gesso did not dry clear and there was a coat of milky white... My vision of an elephant faded, and the canvas became a questionable experiment tossed off to the side.
Flash forward to July 2014... I was standing in front of large aquariums at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, watching kelp sway back and forth. Schools of sardines swirling in and out, pushing past rockfish, surf perches, and other common pacific coast fish that call Kelp forests home. If you have ever been to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, you will understand what I'm talking about -- the magic awe of the great ocean is artificially created in those aquariums. If you haven't been, perhaps these photos may help illustrate what I experienced:
Maybe it was the scale of the kelp forests, or the expressions of the fish watching you watch them, that caused me to fall in a trance. I just sat there taking it all in -- the movement, the moment, the water, the colors, the shapes, and their eyes, all in. It was, with a lack of better expression, a very inspiring experience. This was probably the first time I had ever noticed kelp as kelp, and not just some gross seaweed that washed up on to the beach.
Back at the hotel room --- well, let's be honest, on the ride back to the hotel room as my boyfriend drove, I started sketching out what I had seen, drawing the images that had been burned into my memory. Images that fueled ideas, beauty and inspired my pencil to move. Like so...