Atlantic Crossing Summer 1994
In May of 1994 we left Block Island RI on the first leg of our
transatlantic passage. We sailed south, hoping to make our fifth trip by
sail to Bermuda. After a seven day calm passage, we arrived in good spirits
and spent three weeks in port, steeling our nerves to leave. Our first port
of call was the mid-Atlantic chain of Portuguese islands, the Azores, 1800
There are no watercolors from this visit, since my first attempts were so
uniformly terrible. However, the islands are intensively interesting, and
we spent two months moving from island to island in company with another
yacht. We then on the last leg, to arrive in mainland Europe, and spent
more months exploring Portugal and Atlantic Spain before entering the
Our boat Flight is a 1975 Ted Hood design. She is a small sloop, only 22'
long on the waterline, and in a 24 hour day she will make good 100 miles.
As expected, we crossed in 18 days, after an uneventful passage. Three
weeks after leaving Bermuda, we were well settled in to exploring Flores,
the westernmost of the Azorean Islands.
In October we settled into life in a big marina west of Almeria, Spain,
called Almerimar. It was here that I undertook to improve my first efforts
by learning more systematically about watercolor. I was reluctant to simply
learn techniques - as far as I am concerned artists develop techniques out
of a desire to get at some meaning, and too often, watercolorists are
instead paralyzed by technique. I followed my own advice, and began to
copy. I had foolishly failed to invest in good paper, high quality brushes
and watercolors, or even a plastic palette. But I had invested in a big
book of Winslow Homer watercolors, and I retreived it from its perch behind
my pillow and began to copy his images.
He is a man after my own heart - one hundred years after he painted them,
his pieces still inspire, and his economical but highly informed drawing
and color are still dashing. He, too, traveled to the Caribbean and
Bermuda, and he painted boats, worked in swamps and rivers, watched sponge
divers at work and children playing games on lawns. I absorbed his
knowledge of the medium as best I could. My "studio" was a corner of an
unused section of the harbor, behind a tall concrete wall, safe from prying
eyes or other distractions.
I produced some good work but I suffered from the oil painter's desire to
have a rich, dense physical surface (watercolor is a stain) and the oil
painter's process of covering and layering to achieve color and edge
(watercolor is wet or dry, and the more layers you add to either one, the
more murky it all becomes).
I had observed and drawn from actual spaces in the studio (curtains, glass
panes and sills of windows)
but I was unprepared for the enormous spaces of sky and sea, or the forms
of trees and boats, or the whole question of composing with a view to
crystallizing the vision.