Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Last Autumn Fling...in the Park
Yesterday I was up early before the sun rose...headed to Algonquin Park to pick up the three pieces I had exhibited in The Mystery in the Park Juried Show. I hoped to be able to get in a painting foray as well...if the projected rains and cold front expected to move in... held off. I quickly picked up my work at the Visitor's Center and dashed off to an area where I knew I might find a number of potentially good painting sites...and maybe even ...some tamaracks that might have miraculously held on to their golden finery. Right at the entrance to Opeongo Lake Road... I got out and immediately found a nice site...protected... out of the wind...and with a few tamaracks in it! Bonus!
The site was located well off the highway...which wasn't at all busy anyway because the traffic of fall has departed. So I had this ethereal...peaceful place to my "Self"! Well... not quite! I did have to share the spot with a quiet couple...of hooded mergansers who were cruising and fishing the Opeongo Creek.
I set right down to work on the 20x24 inch canvas I had chosen to use. I had prepared my palette... ready to go the night before...so after a short carry I was busy at it. The light was very subdued ...non-existent for most of the lay in... so I merely mapped out a "shorthand" line guide using a mixture of alizarin permanent with ultramarine blue. The photo indicates "drizzling" turps into the dark sap green-Alizarin and the otherwise rough linear guide I developed to begin the actual painting. Looks a bit sloppy...but the weather was not going to remain constant...no time to get picky! Onward... the paint!
I quickly massed in the far shoreline with rock tones...greens...reserving space for those tamaracks and developing the beginnings for the distant smoky ...purplish pink hills in the background. I then dropped the dark shadows into the water area...and moved up to the foreground grassed area to throw in the contrasting lights. I added some greens and reds and blended those with the taupe grass colour.
At this point, I decided to drop in some verticals to help balance the totally developing horizontal feel...selecting trees that interested me in colour, shape and height. I then started to work around the canvas randomly...refining forms,colour values and angles. I even added a few of the sticks and stumps that poked out seemingly every-which-way in the immediate foreground.
Suddenly...a gust of wind littered my wet canvas with a dusting of fine gold....yes...tamarack needles! I realized that any attempt to remove these at this time...would result in disastrous markings all over the painting service. I quickly decided to get the canvas out of further harm's way by taking it from the easel and reversing it to face away. The wind continued to build, so I took a digital image of the scene...in the new light that had appeared briefly...packed my minimal gear...and headed back to the car. This "start" could be finished up nicely back in the warm... wind.. and tamarack-free studio. After the paint had set up overnight... I knew I could easily and safely remove all of the offending needles and continue with the painting...using the digital image for reference.
I headed down Opeongo Lake Road and again found my "Self" in solitude. I found a wonderful view across a wheat coloured marshy stretch reaching out to the Algonquin Highlands in the distance. A quick glance at the sky told me to set up and to get down to work quickly. I chose a smaller 10x12 inch masonite panel already toned with a dark value of acrylic burnt sienna.
I laid down a very rough line drawing or guide...focusing on interacting lines and interlocking shapes...pure geometry really. I then began the painting process by sorting out of tree colours,forms and groupings on the far shore.I "muddied in" some vague sky references and colours...and then dropped down the dark reflection of the distant hill into the middle ground water area.
I dropped in some (approximate) marsh grass colour...wherever it occurred and then the reflected sky colour...lowered in value into the water area.I finished the sketch by fine tuning the colours and values across the whole composition...tweaked and added a few details 'n sticks in the foreground.I had "said" what I wanted to say and packed 'er up...satisfied with the one hour result. Shouldn't need much ...if any changes back in the studio.
With the weather still at bay...I dared another start...this time a quick study on another 10x12 panel. The subject was a large erratic (glacial boulder deposit) in the middle of Opeongo Creek...as it enters Opeongo Lake. Locals tell me that the First Nations People... the Ojibway and the Algonkians...refer to it as "Turtle Rock"... a sacred spot because of it mossy, lichen shell shape...sitting in the centre of the creek ...looking like a half submerged turtle.Many of these animals have totemic meanings and applications in the spirituality and clan identity of these people... even up into the present time. They would have to pass by it on this water highway as they journeyed from lake to lake ... stream by stream ...all through their Algonquin Highlands territories.
The sudden drumming of water on the brim of my ball cap...and the water-pocked surface of the earlier dark mirror image in the creek told me that this session was over. I packed up in a hurry...and put everything under the lid (cum porch roof) of my van.I quickly cleaned my palette and brushes...and my paint-soiled hands with automotive orange hand cleaner. Looking at the "start" of this attempt as I cleaned up...I realized that it led nowhere... ever ...for "Me"....so I "scrubbed" the sucker! Another day!
The day could have ended on a productive two sketch day...yet on a sad...wet,soggy note. But the Universe...and my Creator conspired to make the day end right for "Me". Just as I prepared to get into the van... a bird dropped onto a low-slung spruce branch...just above my head...and then another close by. Two Gray Jays... or Whiskey Jacks as they are more affectionately are known to "Me"... and others who often share our lunch...and their space...with a sense of awe and belonging... in peace and without fear! These are cheerful, friendly and brash harlequins... and are found everywhere in our North. My North country is my Cathedral!....
"I"....am truly blessed! Good painting to all!