Sounds of a Tropic Night

Published on 9 May 2024 at 23:33

Medium: Watercolor on paper

Date: 1985


Echoes of Color: Experiencing Puerto Rico through Watercolor

As a travel and art enthusiast, I've always believed that the true essence of a place transcends its physical boundaries, spilling over into the experiences it fosters and the memories it creates. This belief was profoundly reinforced during my trip to Puerto Rico in 1985, where I embarked not only on a journey through its landscapes but also through its sounds—a sensory exploration that culminated in a series of watercolor paintings. This piece I've titled "Sounds of a Tropical Night."

On our porch next to the rainforest, my friend Nicholasa and myself sat naked on big straw chairs in the extravagant heat and watched as the sunlight faded into dusk. As we felt the warm spray from moisture of the cooling breeze on our skin, we were slowly submerged into absolute silence.  The sounds of the day were finished. For a moment, there was total quietness that lasted for about a full minute.  As the evening grew darker, we gradually heard new sounds, the fresh sound of the insects and animals who just awakened to live for the night.  The sounds got louder and louder until they became as large as a John Philips Sousa band. What we thought would be a quiet evening became a symphony in the jungle. This was our biggest surprise and the greatest joy for our first tropical night.

Enveloped by the soft blanket of darkness, we were greeted by a chorus of sounds that seemed almost orchestrated by nature itself. Inspired, I set out to translate these auditory sensations into a visual format. This painting is not just a representation of what I saw, but an interpretation of what I heard and felt.

In the upper left corner of the painting, sharp, spike-like forms burst forth with vivid colors, mimicking the piercing calls of nocturnal creatures that cut through the night. These could be the high-pitched chirps of crickets or a sudden screech from a night bird—sounds that demanded attention amidst the serenity.

The body of the painting is dominated by swirling greens and yellows, curves that evoke the gentle, almost musical rustling of leaves and underbrush, stirred by the warm breezes. This movement is akin to a soft melody, a baseline that underpins the night’s chorus, providing a soothing continuity to the sharp sounds.

Near the bottom, softer, flowing lines in shades of blue and green suggest the distant sounds of water, perhaps a stream or the gentle lapping of waves, mingling with the whispers of the land. This part of the painting feels like a calming lullaby, comforting and continuous.

A bold streak of red and a rainbow arc cut through the composition, symbolizing the vibrant, unexpected flashes of life and energy that tropical nights unleash. These elements reflect the bursts of intensity that punctuate the otherwise serene soundscape.

"Sounds of a Tropical Night" is more than a painting; it’s an invitation to viewers to hear the lush, dynamic atmosphere of a Puerto Rican night through vibrant watercolors. Each stroke and hue are a note in the larger melody of the island's nocturnal life, a melody that I hope resonates with others as deeply as it did with me.

My journey through Puerto Rico became a process of deep connection with the environment. Each day, as I explored more of the island’s rich culture and landscapes, I collected sounds and sights that later transformed into colors and shapes on my canvas. This artistic process became a daily ritual, where the experiences of the day were distilled each night into a visual diary. Through this, I hoped to not only capture the beauty of Puerto Rico but also to understand and internalize the rhythm of its natural and human-made worlds.

Reflecting on this creative endeavor, I realize that art and travel are profoundly intertwined, each enhancing the appreciation of the other. As I shared my work with locals and visitors, their reactions and interpretations added new layers of meaning to the painting. This interaction reminded me that art, much like travel, is a communal experience—it grows and evolves with each shared perspective. "Sounds of a Tropical Night" is not just a snapshot of a time and place; it is a living piece of art that continues to evolve with every viewer’s engagement, echoing the continuous and ever-changing chorus of the tropical night that inspired it.

This exploration of Puerto Rico through my art has been a reminder of how deeply we can connect with a place when we fully engage all our senses. Marcel Proust, the renowned French novelist and probably one of the most influential authors of the 20th century said, “We travel not to seek other places, but other eyes.”  As I hope to continue to travel and create, I invite you to join me on this sensory adventure, discovering places not just through their sights but through the sounds and stories they offer, each one painting its unique stroke on the canvas of our experiences.



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