View of the Red Sea, Watercolor on Paper, Mohammed Shamma, 2013
Art General, Earth and the Environment

The Color of Water

Angles, Light and Water - Intercontinental Hotel - Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, 2003

Angles, Light and Water – Intercontinental Hotel – Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, 2003

Water has always been a difficult mystery for me.  As a young child I feared the deep end of the pool more than I feared the night.  When the time came for my swim lessons, I would simply tell my mother, “I lost my bathing suit.”  Naturally she knew my little trick and always found it.  She then proceeded to drag me to the pool while I whimpered about how cold it was or of the sharks living in the deep end.  Bedtime was a different story.  I would boldly tell my mother that I wasn’t afraid of monsters and if they try to attack me in my dreams, I would hit them and kick them until they ran away.  I always awoke the next morning to a wet bed.  Somehow, in my effort to fight my own dream demons, to slay the sea creatures of my night, I felt the urge to empty my bladder.

I grew up in Houston, Texas and witnessed many many rainy days and flash floods.  When I was ten years old, we prepared for hurricane Alicia.  We taped up our windows and slept between two walls of mattresses as the storm pounded away at our fragile wooden house.  And when the storm passed, we went outside and observed the destruction in the form of fallen pine and oak trees throughout the neighborhood.  Some had fallen into streets while others fell on houses.  The memory of Alicia returned to me as I witnessed the destruction of Katrina.  My heart wept for the destitute and the dead.

I once spent a summer in Egypt with my uncle and his family.  My cousins and I decided to take a Nile cruise to Aswan and hire a taxi from there to Abu Simbel.  The drive was about two hours and the heat was intense.  Along the way we passed a caravan of camels, abandoned homes and the occasional military outpost backdropped by desert and multiple mirages.  After an hour we stopped at a mud brick building and I watched a boy no older than fourteen come out of nowhere, lift the hood, open the radiator cap and fill it with water.  The driver must have driven this road several times over because he knew how far his car could go between each rest stop.  I remember pouring water in my hand and watching it evaporate instantly before my eyes.  Under such extreme conditions, water is like the precious moment in our lives that we want never to end.

I recently painted this photo because I wanted to explore the color of water once again in my life.  I took the photo ten years ago from the view of the hotel in Sharm El-Sheikh.  The color was absolutely intense it was like a dream.  I remember feeling blinded by the whiteness of the balcony as I gazed down at the hues of cyan, ultramarine and cobalt below.  The color and texture of the water  was the most challenging part of the painting for me.  I wanted to desperately recreate that short-lived moment during which I snapped the photo and simply walked away.


One thought on “The Color of Water

  1. Great story! I, too, remember Alicia and our excursions together. I also remember our first meeting (which thankfully you didn’t write about :-)) at the neighborhood pool but had no idea you were afraid of water; you hid it well! Great photo and painting, BTW! Your friend, Mike

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