"To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all."
"Chris' Canoe, Near Golfo", oil on canvas, 18"x24" is the second painting I have finished recently based upon Christopher McCandless' photos from his amazing odyssey between 1990 and 1992. The picture that this painting is based upon was taken at the beginning of 1991 when Chris decided to leave the canoe in favor of continuing his travels on foot. He had nearly perished in a storm that blew in off of the desert while he was on the water and I am sure this brush with death played a part in his decision to walk away from the aluminum craft.
I remember when I first saw this photograph. I figured Chris had taken a picture of his canoe like this because the quality of the light was so beautiful hitting the dunes and the ocean. I realized later that he probably took this shot as he turned to walk away from the canoe. Perhaps it was a final goodbye to the little vessel that had ferried him down the Colorado River, through the labyrinth of narrowing irrigation canals beyond the Morelos Dam and finally, with the help of some strangers, to the ocean.
I found painting this piece as well as "Odyssey By Train" understandably emotional. However, I did feel a wonderful sense of connection too, a small connection to Chris' story as seen through his eyes. I took great pleasure in doing a landscape painting for a change, to paint shapes in a more amorphous way perhaps than with my treatment of the figure. Although I was using Chris' photo, there is wiggle room with landscape painting I find...the ability to shift the dunes a bit to your liking, to play with colours in the shadows..to embellish slightly, to make it unique.
There is a great variety of colour in this painting, which is why it appealed to me. "Odyssey By Train" is monochromatic, so this painting was a nice swing at the other end of the spectrum.
I treat these paintings and Chris' pictures as little portals into his experience. When I see this painting I think about the 36 days alone that Chris spent paddling up and down the coast near Golfo, not seeing anyone. During this solitary time I am sure he reflected a lot and was probably happy to return to the road after he left the canoe on the beach.
Whenever I complete a painting I look back on it and remember where my favorite area of the piece was to render...sometimes everything just comes together and colours almost mix by themselves and brushstrokes find their own perfect plumb line. In this painting the area I enjoyed rendering the most was the bottom of the canoe. I wanted to try to feel the cool aluminum as it stood there in the shadows...that pleasing light grey with a hint of blue.
I will be doing an entire body of work in the future, with Chris' photos as the impetus behind it. This body of work will commence as soon as my solo exhibition about Newfoundland has taken place in the fall of 2009. Patience is a virtue! Both bodies of work are tremendously important to me. Creating paintings that resonate within myself and hopefully within others- there is no greater feeling.
"It is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be a reason the more for us to do it." ~Rainer Maria Rilke