Sunday, August 31, 2014


Sunrise Cottage, 9 x 12 oil

A lot of the time, coral doesn't appear to be living.  When you see it during the daytime, the polyps are closed and it doesn't move, doesn't even flex as the water surges past.  The creature I am looking at is a four-inch disk, with radiating spines like the gills of a mushroom. In between the spines, little pips like the arms of a small anemone protrude.  As I dive down, I see that they are gently moving.  This single, large coral  polyp behaves more like an animal than any other thing anchored down there on the bottom.

Saturday, August 30, 2014


Hawaii Sunrise Distant Island, 9 x 2 oil

There's always something to see.  I come in from an ordinary snorkelling day, and notice something moving on the shallow sand bottom.  It is a tiny flatfish, absolutely totally indistinguishable in color and texture from the sand.  It even matches the ridges.  It is virtually invisible unless it moves.  I dive down to it.  From really really close, I can see two eyes.  They see me.  The fish stays absolutely still.  When I surface I can't find it again.

Friday, August 29, 2014


Sunrise Sculpted Tree, 9 x 12, oil
An eel and a Peacock Grouper are hunting together.  It goes like this:  They swim alongside each other so close that they are tickling each other's sides as they undulate through the water.  Then the eel finds a hole in the coral and goes through, while the grouper swims to the outlet to see if something comes out.  Sometimes the eel wins, sometimes the grouper wins.  Then, they tickle-swim to a new spot.
I wonder how these partnerships get set up.  Does one of them go, "Meet me at 7:30 tomorrow by the tall green coral."?

Thursday, August 28, 2014


Island Sunrise, 6 x 8 oil
Hawaii has an octopus that is active during the day.  Which means, if it's there, you can see it.  Sometimes.  Three days ago, I saw my first octopus.  Now I see one most days.  It's like my eye-brain has figured out how to see them, and so it does.
   Octopuses are not very good at holding still.  So if one is out and about and sees you, it kneels on its skirt and only sort of freezes.  Then it looks like a dark brown lump that is gently swaying.  I've spotted quite a few of them by looking more closely at a suspicious brown lump.
  The octopus has quite a few other strategies to make up for not being able to freeze.  It can change color to blend in with its surroundings.  It can sort of shrinks itself, and little bumps and protuberances appear all over its skin.  It can make a radiating dark/light pattern that pulses out from its head, looking vaguely like scattered sunlight on the ocean floor.  I watch one being approached by a fish, and it uses a tentacle to flick the fish away.  When I approach, the octopus seems to melt into the coral, taking no space at all.  I haven't bothered any of them enough to make them spray ink.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Moonlight Moorage, 6 x 8 oil
A bit of color attracts my eye.  Diving down, I see a large maroon mound.  It has the texture of some corals, but something about the patterning strikes me as vaguely radial.  Looking it up, I find that it is a pillow star.  Funny how something can look so much like something quite different.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Tropical Sunrise, 6 x 8 oil
Swimming round a ridge of coral I come upon a large school of fish.  Black Durgeon are a common sight feeding in midwater above the reef, but here are more than fifty, along with Raccoon Butterflyfish and Threadfin Butterflyfish.  As I pause, drifting back and forth with the surge along with the whole column, I find that they allow me to come quite close.  I see color and patterns I have never noticed before.  The raccoons become backlit jewels, with glowing golden tails and a delicate margin of maroon along the tail and fins.  The Black Durgeon have brown tracery around the eyes and face.  Somehow my attention shifts focus, and I see what they are eating: Tiny creatures with two white wings, held together by something invisible and gelatinous.

Monday, August 25, 2014


Sunrise Seaside Cabin, 6 x 8 oil

It's the first morning of my month-long stay in Hawaii.  An eel swims below m, ribboning in and out of coral heads like a wind-rippled banner.  He goes through tiny holes, making me wonder how he keeps from scratching himself on the hard coral structures.  Under a shelf he goes, coming out in a totally unexpected place.  In one hole, he folds back on himself, head emerging next to the tail as if he took no space at all.  What else is hiding in the coral, not to be seen unless it chooses to emerge into the undulating daylight?