I've always gravitated to the outdoors and especially the ocean, which is why I think these themes show up in my art. I've been analyzing my choice of subjects for quite some time now. It's easy to assume that I paint them simply because they're pretty and there's some truth to that. Every time I drive over the hill from my house and see the big blue panoramic vista of the Pacific it takes my breath away. The ocean never fails to deliver. So I wonder if its inherent majesty is enough to make one want to include it in a work of art? Sure, but there are deeply rooted reasons why artists are drawn toward a certain muse and today I think I found my answer to this one.
While painting in my studio, I was listening to a podcast by endurance athlete/author, Rich Roll. He had on a fellow endurance athlete and cancer survivor, Tommy Rivs. Tommy spent much of 2020 in a medically induced coma as doctors tried to treat his rare and aggressive form of lung. Needless to say, the universe ushered in all sorts of life lessons for Tommy. Grateful to be alive, he now sees the world through a refined lens of awe and gratitude. He spoke intimately about his relationship to the natural world -- a world that came into a clearer context during a visit to Hawaii. I'll try to paraphrase his sentiments...Hawaiians believe in the notion that if you are a steward of the land, if you protect it, then the earth has a moral obligation to care for you in return (because of our interconnectedness). This isn't just a spiritually reciprocal relationship, it also exists on a physical or molecular level. Think of the "respiratory relationship" that we have with the earth. We consume carbohydrates and we breathe in oxygen, and we drink water. The combination of those three things creates carbon dioxide and energy. We breathe out carbon dioxide and the plants breathe it back in and convert it to oxygen and energy. Now I think about Tommy, a man who celebrates every breath he gets to take, and how this relationship must impact him. It makes sense that he would have these revelations on the island of Hawaii because the name itself embodies this relationship: Ha - meaning breath, Wai - meaning water or life force, and I - meaning supreme. (You could spend a good chunk of time learning simply about the concept of Ha in the Hawaiian culture.)
So what does any of this have to do with art? Well, it tells me that including water or the ocean in my work is more than just a means to draw attention to its beauty. It's an expression of inspiration* of something that is literally a part of me, of all of us. It's a reminder of our interconnectedness. So, it's no wonder when we see the sunset over the ocean, or a sparkling turquoise sea, that it takes our breath away because we are miraculously part of that beauty.
*Definition of inspiration: the drawing in of breath, to breathe life into something.