Bay of Plenty
by Robert Genn

July 27, 2010

Dear Rodney,If it's drizzling, I paint on the fantail. If it's a nice day, I paint forward, by 
the focs'le. At sea or at a safe anchorage, forward is the best place. Sometimes I 
get tea or something brought up there. The captain keeps an eye on me from the 
wheelhouse. At anchor, I have my fishing lines out, giving the illusion of 
multitasking. 

On Laredo Inlet there's a tight anchorage called "Bay of Plenty." Laredo was named 
in 1792 by the Spanish explorer Jacinto Caamano. "Plenty" is known for an abundance 
of crab. It's also a spot with plenty of islands. There are Common loons, Marbled 
Murrelets and Mew gulls. Bears snag migrating salmon in the rapids at the top of 
the bay.
 
Recently, not on this trip, while working in front of people, someone asked, 
"What's going on in your head?" 

"Not very much," I had to admit. At the time it was the usual fantasies and 
wandering aberrations. But there are always conscious concerns--like efficiency. In 
my case, I premix my acrylics in yogurt cups to span from one painting to the next. 
In the Bay of Plenty, I'm premixing plenty.
 
On the boat, leisure is useful provided you combine it with hard work. I find myself 
taking longer to choose my brushes, and I'm more deliberate in their use. As you 
get older, you find your natural rhythms changing. For example, these days I'm 
drinking less, but more frequently. 

While trying to maintain the basics of composition and colour, it's also a good 
idea to think of virtues like elegance and freshness. None of these can be counted 
on to automatically show up. What's going on in your head? Painting is a matter of 
thinking of one thing while you're thinking of something else. 

It's also eternal vigilance for something to go right. Often it has to do with 
form. Or maybe it's just noticing something in the work that's a bit different. In 
any case, artists need to develop a personal sensitivity to passages of interest. 
Finders keepers.

I notice something going on with one of my lines. When I get the thing on deck, 
it's a sea cucumber, twisting and writhing in its bumpy red and yellow skin. I 
give the creature back to the mystery below. Even in the Bay of Plenty, some days 
there ain't no fish.