Digital Art Goes Back to the Beach

Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge is located at the southwest corner of St. Croix. It is a spectacular sweep of sand beach and Caribbean-blue water, and an important nesting site for the ancient-looking and endnagered leatherback turtle.

Sandy Point Peel - 2009

Sandy Point Peel - 2009

The leatherbacks come ashore well after dark to lay their eggs, and the baby turtles emerge from the sand just after dusk about 60 days later. Whether in the brilliant mid-day light, at dusk or on a moonlit night, the stark shapes and brilliant color fields of Sandy point are stunning.

(Contact the St. Croix Environmental Association for information on guided turtle-watch tours.)

Fort Christiansvaern, Take 2

Here’s a slightly different perspective on our old fort, all planes, shapes and colors. Just the picture for today. That’s all. Time to get back to the shoreline…

Fort Christiansvaern, take 2

Fort Christiansvaern, take 2

Haiti-haiti flower (Thespesia populnea)

This is the beautiful flower of a common beachside bush (Thespesia populnea) called the haiti-haiti tree here on St. Croix, also known as seaside mahoe, portia tree, and often mistakenly called beach hibiscus. *

Haiti-haiti flower - 2009

Haiti-haiti flower - 2009

Despite the common name sometimes used, the beach hibiscus is actually a different plant (Hibiscus tiliaceus). Still, the flower does look hibiscus-like. I was attracted by the filmy, creamy translucence of the off-white petals when the flower is fully opened.

While the short-lived flowers are beautiful, the tree itself is scrubby with multiple woody stems. Invasive and salt-tolerant, it can quickly dominate a shoreline. The fruits or seedpods are a favorite of the local bright red love bugs, one of which is featured in my gravatar. More on those guys later!

*Thanks to Carol Cramer-Burke at the St. Croix Environmental Association for pointing me in the right direction on the facts here.

The Dark Side

Despite the best clean-up efforts of groups like the St. Croix Environmental Association, the shorelines here on St. Croix are sometimes littered with debris – mostly plastic. Some is left behind by careless beachgoers, but far more is deposited from the ocean itself.

Shield - 2009

Shield - 2009

That beautiful blue Caribbean Sea, an apparently limitless resource, is in fact full of garbage that drifts ashore. I think that sad fact was on my mind as I began this image.

This rocky shore had interest, but needed a spark to bring it to life. After some work, the rusty metal parts in another photo became the green shield tucked under the most interesting of the rocks.

As the image developed, it became darker and almost macabre — not something I had intended in the beginning. In fact, looking at it now, the feelings evoked are almost a surprise. Strange.

The Irresistible Egg Fruit

There was this pile of bright yellow-orange egg fruit on a red table at St. Croix’s St. George Village Botanical Garden last summer. The jumble of shapes lit with an intense swath of sunlight across the front was irresistible. So I took it home with me.

Occasionally I will go to work immediately on a photograph to produce a final image. However, just as common is the months-long gestation that this one required. Several times I worked on it, was dissatisfied and put it away — only to bring it out later, delete a layer or two (a little like scraping the paint off?) and move forward. That start and stop process sometimes produces an image that is over-worked. But in other cases, it is the only way.

Egg fruit - 2009

Egg fruit - 2009


The painting-a-day discipline of carrying a painting forward to completion each day is different from the luxury of allowing an idea to gestate, going back days later, and reconsidering the strokes of the brush (or in my case, the stylus). Not better or worse, but different. So does that different process lead to different results?

On Developing a “Signature Style”

There has been an interesting debate recently on Sue Favinger Smith’s “Ancient Artist” blog about the importance of developing a signature style. Martin Stankewitz has weighed in with his own contrasting opinion in his Squidoo Lens on the subject.

"Rechargeable Sponge" 2008

Rechargeable Sponge - 2008


This has been an issue for me. I often venture off in different directions. While I could force myself to stay within a certain “box” for commercial purposes, I know that box could also become a prison (as Martin suggests).

On the other hand, an identifiable “style” is a likely outcome of the daily discipline of working on one’s art. In time, a style should develop and become apparent on its own. It will not need to be forced. Having a recognizable style may be a mark of maturity and accomplishment as an artist — assuming the artist allows that style to gradually evolve over time.

Style as a mark of maturity and accomplishment may also be one reason the galleries and marketing gurus encourage anyone who wants to advance commercially in the art world to find a style and stick with it. A “signature style” provides the appearance (although not necessarily the reality) of maturity and accomplishment. As a result, some may feel pressured to lock into a style for commercial purposes, perhaps before a genuine personal style has emerged on its own.

In the end, this is one more facet of the age-old tension between art for art’s sake, and monetary and public success. I know few people who have no need for the money or the sense of approval and respect for our work that an occasional sale can provide. Each must resolve the tension between commercial success and artistic freedom in their own way. I will be interested to see how I resolve it for myself.

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