It was a spectacular day to paint near the Children’s Pool in La Lolla. There was not a hint of Gloom in the June morning. Instead both the air and the water were crystalline. The waves were benign and the tide was still going out when I arrived, which meant I could set up my easel close to the waterline, kick off my shoes and stand barefoot in the sand.
This is an area that has had its share of conflict: Children’s Pool is the man-made cove that the seals have appropriated as their own. There have been stand offs between the Pro Seal groups and the Children’s Pool Belongs To The Children groups. What most folks don’t know is that the rocks just off shore were originally called Seal Rock, because … well … that’s usually what was sunbathing on them. The building of the Children’s Pool disrupted their breeding habitat, but in recent years, they’ve moved back in, displacing the La Jolla stroller-and-water-wings set.
This day, there was not a single seal lounging on the sand. They were all frolicking in the calm water, some just a few dozen yards from where I was painting, on the open water side of the breakwater that forms the Pool. As the sun climbed and the day warmed, families started to arrive. I could hear the awed exhales as each arrived at beach level: even the locals were enraptured by the quality of the day. Girls were looking for shells, squealing when the small waves would lick their feet. Boys were running, jostling, throwing, bouncing. One youngster decided to wade out and climb the rock in my painting, then slide down the other side back into the water. He saw his cohorts pointing and guffawing in his direction and assumed they were egging him on, so he grandstanded some more. Of course he never turned around. If he had, he would have seen the seal, in the deeper water just a few feet beyond him, who I believe was making silly faces behind his back.
The girls clustered around me, watching me paint. “How do you decide what to paint?” one asked.
“I get to a place that I think will be interesting,” I replied. “And then I wait.”
“For my eyes to see the best thing to paint.”
She considered this. “But isn’t that the first thing that you notice?”
By now I knew I was talking to a pretty cool kid. I asked her if she liked to paint. “I like to sing,” she said.
“So you know how when you hear music, like, if a car with a radio is coming toward you, the first thing you hear is the loudest? Maybe the drums?” I posed. She nodded. “But if you listen for a while, then you hear the rest of the song. The guitar, the vocals. The beautiful part. Sometimes it’s not to most obvious thing. But if I’m patient, then I’ll see it.”
I did two other sketches before Turquoise Water, the painting above, appeared to me. I’m glad I waited for it!