Black Coral Cave
Oil on Wood Panel
9″ X 12″
This painting was a joy to paint, though I don’t think it is 100% done. It is another alla prima oil painting experiment. I felt slightly more at ease painting the entire painting in one sitting this time, though I still have many hours to log before I will claim expertise in this direct wet-in-wet painting technique.
This summer, my family went scuba diving. It was the first set of dives for my daughters who are finally certified in scuba. I used to have an underwater camera a long time ago, but the photos are only as good as your equipment allow them to be. My cheap camera never did a good job with underwater photos, so I ditched the camera and got in the habit of taking detailed notes of my dives, including as many fish names as I could figure out, but I missed the visual aspect a camera can offer, even if it is subpar. This time, rather than taking a camera, I took inspiration from a friend and talented artist, Cynthia Schubert-Richmond, who has spent a lot more time underwater than I have in a lot more locations. She solved the issue of sharing what she saw underwater by making paintings from memory, and what a wonderful memory she has! It’s quite a brilliant idea really, because it had never occurred to me to paint from life after the fact without a reference, let alone trying to record the underwater world with all its unfamiliar sights, which always feels so surreal to me. Her paintings of her dive trips were gorgeous! They are not online, but you can at least see her other amazing works.
Her underwater scenes inspired me to sketch when I got back to the hotel in the hopes that I might be able to reconstruct the feeling of diving – painting is more accurate for me emotionally than a photo ever could be because even with the best equipment, it is challenging to take a good panoramic photo in the water, and you can’t always catch your favorite fish sightings within your favorite ocean landscape scenery. You have to choose macro or micro when using photography underwater generally speaking. Thus, how nice it is to be able to paint it! This painting is like a shadow of how it felt to me when we went on our last scuba dive. It’s not accurate physically. I couldn’t draw a map of the location. I was too dazzled to pay attention to how the cave was shaped. I remember the rays of the sun shining through the multiple openings, the feeling of mystery within the system, wondering what would be around the next pillar, seeing a few spectacular and unique fish, and swimming up over the coral beds. Most of all, I was struck by the beauty of the amazing black coral dangling down overhead from the top of the cave like a chandelier, complete with three little cowry shells in its boughs like monkeys in a jungle tree. Because it is a painting, I get to capture many of the aspects of this dive all in one image, albeit, you could never really do it full justice compared to seeing it in person, but this is much better than my photos ever were. When I look at my painting, it does evoke the memory of gliding through this mysterious underwater cave for me.