Oil on Stretched Canvas
72 inches by 20 inches
In the late seventies and early eighties, Alex and I spent several weeks during a number of Aprils, with both sets of our parents, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Our last trip included our then infant daughter, Andrea. We always stayed in the same apartments at the Sirocco Motel, an art deco two-storey structure wedged in between other similar pastel coloured motels and a massive bible college.
The Sirocco was right on the beach and every morning, before the beachgoers would arrive, and evening, after the beachgoers departed, my father, father-in-law, and I would cast our fishing lines into the surf. I was responsible for dragging a deep fryer basket taped to a pole through the sand where it met the water to gather the bait – sand fleas, which are actually small crustaceans.
Although we caught many species of fish, our daily catches predominantly consisted of pompano and pomfrets. It was clear that both these species travelled in schools from the fact that we consistently hooked fish at the same time and could land one or more rounds if we were able to get our lines back into the water before the school departed. During the lull moments, I would visualize what these schools of fish might look like beneath the waves.
We stopped going to the Sirocco once it was sold to make way for a high-rise condo. Today, the area is a wall of condos, including the bible college, which form a solid and impenetrable barrier to the ocean.
While living with my in-laws just prior to moving to our farm, I went to a supermarket on Spadina Avenue in Toronto’s Chinatown. Amongst the many species of fish on display, there was a bin full of pomfrets. It immediately stirred up fond memories of fishing with my dad and father-in-law. I decided at that moment to create a painting of the school of fish I visualized so many years ago. With half a dozen pomfrets in hand, I headed up Spadina to Daniel’s Art Supplies to order a suitable canvas for the task.
Once I got the canvas, I would spend many nights in my in-laws’ basement recreation room holding a frozen pomfret, bent to the desired shape, in one hand and painting the outline with the other. After a while, the household would voice complaints over the stench at which point I would dispose the offending fish and move to another frozen pomfret.
After moving to the farm, other priorities took over – most notably renovating a century-old farmhouse with limited funds, and this work has taken a back seat. I’m fully committed to complete this work, sooner than later. Our son, Adrian, has claimed it.
The image above show the current state of this work and the meticulous detail of two completed pomfrets. Follow its progress below.