“What competence I possess as an oil painter I feel I owe to the years I spent working exclusively in watercolor.”—Clark Hulings
In Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1964, the NarBil Gallery featured a one-man exhibit of watercolors by Clark Hulings that included Mending Nets—Torremolinos, Spain. Hulings spent the three years prior to the exhibition traveling in Europe and North Africa: studying in Florence and Dusseldorf, traveling up to Northern Norway, down to Southern Egypt, and meandering all over in between. He also spent significant time on the Iberian Peninsula, including months in Andalucia, where he based himself in what was then the sleepy seaside town of Torremolinos. Hulings’ transition from successful commercial illustrator to easel painter was in full swing during this period, which took years of lonely, dedicated work, and a life on the road.
Other Fish to Fry
In the fifties and early sixties, Torremolinos was just starting to become a tourist hub after many years as a quiet fishing village. In the fifties it was a celebrity destination for everyone from Grace Kelly to Marlon Brando, and it’s still a favorite of British ex-pats escaping UK rain in favor of the Costa del Sol. Hulings did not have much time to socialize with the stars or the locals while he was there; he had a rigorous study and paint-all-day schedule. Several works from the Tulsa show were created then—this beautiful painting among them.
Mending Nets—Torremolinos, Spain shows the grace and dignity of a traditional lifestyle. Our perspective is down at ground level, alongside and as equals of the bearded man as he focuses on repairing the fishing net. There’s an ease in his body, as if he didn’t have to practice yoga to be comfortable working from this position. He’s in and among the loops of the net and physically immersed his work. We see that Hulings has used the transparent properties of watercolor to great effect here, with layers of see-through netting folded and draped, and clean splashes of light on the man, the net, and the hills and buildings behind them.
Although often undervalued in the art world, watercolor is a technically-demanding medium that has produced masterpieces from such great artists as Turner, Sargent, and Flint. There are many examples of contemporary masters of the medium, including current Clark Hulings Foundation Board member Dean Mitchell. Hulings wrote: “If [the watercolorist] is to keep his painting spontaneous and sparkling, he must work from light to dark, always careful not to touch areas of the paper that are to remain white. […] It requires the joint skills of drawing with the brush and planning out a whole picture in advance. […] What competence I possess as an oil painter I feel I owe to the years I spent working exclusively in watercolor.”
We are grateful to our community of Hulings collectors, one of whom was recently in touch with us about this piece. Although this watercolor isn’t currently available, there is a Torremolinos oil painting for sale that also features a beautiful slice of life from before the tourists descended. Please do send us a note if you’re interested.