Fishermen and Sunlight - memories of my father

by Margie Boynton

Today, October 26, is my Dad’s birthday. I thought a great way to celebrate this day would be to share some of my memories growing up with an artist Dad. 

Dad always had some mammoth project going on in our living room. He would be stapling large sheets of damp watercolor paper to stretcher bars or nailing a painting into a frame. The house was abuzz with his presence and creative energy.

Some of my earliest memories were of my father getting ready to go out with the watermen on skipjacks. He loved getting into his car before light, crossing the Bay Bridge and stepping into the lives of men who harvested the Bay under sail, a unique and dying culture.  There was a separateness about being on the water aboard these boats, far from the noise and pressures of our modern, technological world. He would come back at the end of the day very animated, excited to share the highlights of his day — how the early morning sky was ablaze with yellows and reds, almost unreal. He would relay spirited conversations he had had with the crew, imitating their accents and a telltale cock of the head.  Often he would come home with a bushel of oysters the captain had given him to take home for his family. 

After Dad went home to the Lord (I like to say “went home to the Lord,” rather than “passed away,”) Jan Glastra Van Loon, a family friend in Holland, sent a photo of a painting of a skipjack my dad had done for his Dad, Feico.  Feico had been a spiritual father to my dad for many years. In the painting, shadowy figures onboard the skipjack were obscured by the light. Jan said, “Now my dad and your dad are on board that boat together.” 

His comment gave me new insight into my Dad’s paintings. We are all like the fishermen on board the boat, harvesting the goodness of the works of our hands and living out our God-given destinies. The light that has such an illuminating and brilliant presence in my Dad’s paintings, is the loving favor and presence of God. The light, the presence of God, and the men have such a pure relationship with one another in his paintings; the fishermen and the sunlight are almost intertwined, as if they are one. 

As my Dad spent time with the watermen on the Chesapeake Bay, Biblical passages that reference fishermen would come alive to him. For Dad it was more than the skipjack as a subject matter, it was the means by which he portrayed God’s guidance in his life. My Dad wanted people to see the light!