Aquablue, oil on linen painting 36 x 60 in. by Daniel Ambrose

Aquablue, oil on linen 36 x 60 in. by Daniel Ambrose. Click image to enlarge.

Aquablue is a significant painting, singing of sea life and light. From conception to completion, almost a decade in the making.

During the summer of 2006 I sat on the beach every morning and painted the sunrise. I painted it in my sketchbook at first, and soon began to paint small oil studies like the seascape I featured in my inaugural blog post that October, Florida Sunrise.

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The sunrise paintings were small, about 4 x 5 inches. Collectors called them Gems. To capture the rapidly changing colors of the the rising sun, I painted them in a 15 -20 minute window. Because they were so small, I indicated detail with a tiny flick of the brush. Slightly mixing colors, I worked feverishly, flicking paint from my palette on to the canvas. A loaded brush, woven with multiple hues. I was in the zone, fully tuned into the watery music of color and light.

Though I have been going to the ocean since I was 2 months old, I needed more study to fully paint her majesty and movement. Great marine painters like William Trost Richards and Frederick Judd Waugh knew the sea and painted her well. I’m a slow learner.

Aquablue is twelve times the width of one of those little Gems. Meaning, a wave that is suggested in a .25 inch stroke, enlarged, becomes 3 inches. Painters soon learn the problems of scale when enlarging small plein air paintings. Information is lacking. It’s difficult to duplicate the freshness, transpose the variety of intricate jewel-like colors to a larger canvas. It’s crucial to know your subject to paint it well. I must know what came before and what will come after the movement I am painting. I studied wave dynamics. I studied the changing colors of the sea.

I painted small paintings for color. For movement I made drawings of the waves. I desire a sense of rhythm, a flow of light and line, of color and contrast, of air. The feeling of saline breeze. A viewer once told me they loved the sound in my paintings. I think often about the ocean.

Painting is a mind game.

I painted Aquablue in my head for seven years before I lifted a brush. I dreamed of Aquablue. Tangled up with all that thinking, I was sifting through some tender emotions. Like scooping a handful of periwinkles from wet sand and letting them drip through my fingers. Each one fragile and singularly beautiful; each tiny shell, each unnamed emotion.

I finished and framed Aquablue and hung it on my studio wall.  For most of a year I studied it at different times of day. I made minor adjustments, massaging edges and subtle color shapes. I let her mellow, let her linger in my senses like perfume on a beloved. Then I relinquished Aquablue.

There is a large quiet space on the studio wall. The image of Aquablue impressed in the atmosphere. A gentle reminder. Like awakening with the memory of a peaceful dream.

Other sensuous seascapes swim around in my dreams. The sea. Her daily rhythms, reflective colors and changing moods continue to astonish me. I love the ocean.

We are all swimming in this ocean we call life. All in it together. Yet, each wave is an original—like you. May your every wave in the new year be awash in the inspiring colors of kindness and love, good health and hope.

Be kind to yourself. . . and dream.

. . .And go to the seashore. Scoop up a small handful of periwinkle shells. The purple ones are my favorite. In each one place a thoughtful intention, a dream. Now run to the waters edge. Cast your dreams upon the ocean.

Now with intention, swim for your dreams.

Dream. Swim. Most of all, love.

In the end, all that surfaces, is love.

“I need the sea because it teaches me,
I don’t know if I learn music or awareness,
if it’s a single wave or its vast existence,
or only its harsh voice or its shining
suggestion of fishes and ships.
The fact is that until I fall asleep,
in some magnetic way I move in
the university of the waves. ” – Pablo Neruda

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