I was working on this painting when 27 people drowned while crossing the Channel. This terrible tragedy shows how dangerous the journey is and how desperate people must be to embark on these journeys in the first place.
I have been working on this picture on and off for several months, layering it with thick impasto, to try to emphasize the risks and determination of refugees.
In 2007 I was in a flat-bottomed boat crossing Lake Turkana, on a stretch of water about the same width as the English Channel. Our group was going from Ethiopia to Kenya when we encountered high winds and very quickly took on too much water and the boat became unstable. For a few moments I thought we'd drown. I was not wearing a life jacket. We threw out cans of fuel to reduce weight and managed to stabilize the boat by bailing out water just in time. We were very lucky. I will never forget that feeling of abject terror.
The boat in the painting is based on fishing boats used by the Senegalese, of a type that has been used in crossings to the Canary Islands. This is an imagined scenario of a group of refugees setting off on their perilous journey.
These tragedies are heart wrenching.
Oil on Canvas 36 X 48 inches

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