The Top of the Bridge

Excerpts from my Journal: Part 2.

Photo by Kathryn Babcock.

Standing on the top of the bridge is a spectacular experience and painting from it is surreal. We have been so privileged.

Right now the two highest pillars of the bridge, which will form the suspension part, have not been joined to the east and west ramps. The ramps simply end in mid-air, and there we are! Safely tucked behind guard rails and walls, of course, but right out there with an incredible 360 degree view of the harbor.

We have one of those foldup tents with a red top, popular on the beach these days. At first, I felt invisible up there because we are so high up and so small in relation to everything around us. I have since learned that we are quite visible and were definitely noticed.

The view is constantly varied in color and light, and moves all the time. A harbor is never still. When I first started drawing at the harbor, I’d look up and back at my drawing and think to myself, “How did I get that so wrong? There is more space between those cranes.” It took me a while to realize the cranes move—all the time. They raise up and lower down, some even move along tracks. Huge ships are docked, unloaded, reloaded, and pushed back out to sea by tugboats. Thousands of trucks hook up trailers and the cranes lower containers onto them. Day and night.

It is very noisy. Trucks and cars and trains—horns and whistles, bumps and crashes, scrapes and thuds, blowing wind and the cries of an occasional seagull.

From the top of the bridge it sometimes looks like a giant playground.  There are bright colors everywhere—reds and blues and greens, oranges and yellows, purple skies, warm and cool greys. All the various shipping companies are color-coded and the hundreds of thousands of containers look like stacks of building blocks. In the mist the cranes resemble brontosauri. 

There are smokestacks and massive tangles of pipes in the refineries. It can be overwhelming. The artist must edit, interpret, isolate, organize. She must look for big shapes and values, must find the rhythms and push the space.

It is exhilarating; it is exhausting. It is great fun and hard work.

We get there by eight in the morning and work until one or three in the afternoon. Liz and Sarah join Kathryn and me when they don’t have to work, but Kathryn and I go every Wednesday and every Friday unless we are out of town.

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