getting all wet
i was feeling competent enough at painting that i could focus on a specific image and complete it.
i had put together a travel kit that i could use on business travel. it looked like a computer bag, so i was careful not to leave it sitting in airports unsupervised.
i still wasn't fluent enough in watercolors to complete a painting quickly. so i used the kit mostly at night in my hotel rooms during travel, when i had plenty of free time.
i went to amsterdam in the spring on a business trip, and took the kit with me for the first time.
i met a buddy and his wife for an afternoon of hash smoking and blather. the next day i went for a long walk from the central station to the modern art museum. i tried this using only a crude tourist map, which in the bowels of amsterdam is an insufficient tool, and after a wacky shortcut through the university i was pleasantly lost.
as i was traversing a small square called the randtslein i came across a large fountain, made of large stone blocks mortared together as a wide circular pool. seven jets of water threw white spray into the spring air. the fountain was circled on all sides by chestnut trees welcoming in a beautifully clouded and sundrenched sky.
i stopped. i stood and sat looking at that fountain for a long time, because i wanted badly to paint it, but didn't have my paint kit or a sketch pad with me.
that night i painted it in my room and called it the enormous fountain, because i felt like that fountain in its circle of light will splash and spray forever.
over the next week as i continued my trip i did more paintings of it, in paris in my small room near the old city hall, and in london just before my flight back home.
this was the first painting i did as a series, pursuing the same image over and over. i tried different painting techniques for the sky and trees and the water, hoping to stumble on the imagery that would do justice to my memory.
because what i had seen at the fountain was not a physical thing, it was the image of brief life splashing under the timeless light, circled on all sides by darkness and giving trees.
that was something i didn't know how to paint yet.