Mark Ballard

The color of the sea

Mark Ballard
Mark Ballard

As an artist, I view everything around me as a potential work of art. Instead of looking at things as they appear, I try to become a detective and carefully investigate them on a whole different level. I always wonder how they would translate to canvas or drawing paper. What would it take to forever capture a moment in time?

We spent last weekend at a fabulous beach house on the Gulf of Mexico. Before leaving for our destination, I loaded my Jeep to the gills. “Gills” being the appropriate word I suppose since I was delivering three original sea-themed paintings to the homeowners. The rather large paintings were the last things to be placed on top of the luggage and other beach necessities.

Two seahorses immortalized on vertical canvases would become mirror images of themselves when hung in their new home. Gracing the walls of a dining room, they appeared to know they would have a prime location. Proudly gleaming in a variety of every shade from blue to green, they held their heads high when they were loaded into the vehicle.

Vying for even more attention was a single nautilus shell I painted on a large square canvas. More than four times the size of the seahorses, it was confident. I used dimensional paste to create the depth of the shell and a hint of iridescence to emulate the inside cavities. It almost glowed against a pale turquoise background.

Aqua was indeed the color of choice that weekend. Every window in this spectacular house graciously offered a breathtaking view and the components for a future painting. You could hardly turn your head without seeing a masterpiece!

The fact is one doesn’t have to look very far to see a masterpiece whether you are at the beach or not. However, the beach does have a wonderful way of enticing your eyes to take notice. All these images are still swirling around in my mind like the small fish that nibbled at my feet while I was floating in the ocean.

Every day I rode my bicycle up and down the pristine white sand of the coast. Like an explorer, I ventured into new and exciting territory each time I rode. I came upon so many creations, both natural and man-made. I tried to photograph as many as I could. I found myself in awe as I stood there soaking in their incredible beauty.

Seagulls and sandpipers flocked and frolicked around us on the beach almost daily providing us hours of entertainment. Apparently they have learned to recognize the sound a Ziploc filled with snacks makes as it is opened. First comes one and then, before you know it, others arrive as if they have been summoned by the leader.

The tiniest crumb thrilled the seagulls as much as the original snack had and I tried to capture their afternoon feeding sessions with the iPhone camera. Frozen in mid-flight and bite, I cannot wait to paint them.

This scene is so etched in my mind I can already see the painted portrait of my feathered friends. Once I finish, they will forever be in all their glory, silhouetted against the turquoise ocean and standing on the brilliant white sand.

Besides bringing back a tan and a suitcase, I also brought back a week full of newly made memories and a mind full of paintings. Now all I have to do is get out my paints or colored pencils and find some canvases and drawing paper.

If we stop to take in all the details of the beauty around us, it refreshes our soul. Whether you are an artist or not, these memories can be called up in a moment’s notice to bring joy when they are no longer before us.

I reluctantly said goodbye to the pair of seahorses and shell. It was hard to do, but they seemed so happy in their new coastal home. All the way home my mind was ablaze with creative possibilities. I don’t know where to even begin, but I know I’ll need some turquoise!

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