Thankfully... here in Rockport, it appears that our area was only to have experienced high winds which have now all but subsided... and the sun is brightly shining as I write this post this morning. Everyone was busy when I arrived in the village in late afternoon securing lines on boats and taking in garden and other outdoor items which might be buffeted by high winds. I placed my cedar strip "Island Spirit" safely up tight to the house... safely weighted and tarped out of potential harm's way. Better safe than sorry!
The painting adventure began well on Thursday afternoon when I arrived in Whitney under sunny skies and "Indian Summer" weather conditions... perfect for plein air painting. David and I took full advantage of the situation and headed full steam into the Park to begin the weekend of painting. We decided to set up on Opeongo Road merely because it was already well on in the day and daylight painting hours are much shorter.
We chose small 10x12 inch panels so that we could get in another sketch before the afternoon's end. We completed the first sketch and moved our easels merely a few feet from the first painting location. WQE quickly chowed down on our neglected sandwich lunches, all the while considering the possibilities in the new view. I chose a vertical 18x14 in canvas and stepped into a copse of birches overhanging Costello Creek. The light was failing very quickly, so "speed painting"... completely depending upon an intuitive response was essential to complete at least a "block in" to take back home. Surprisingly... we both came away good solid sketches. Speed can be accomplished... without compromising quality. I am posting these sketches raw from the field... completed "alla prima"... untouched at this point, so that one can clearly see the quick interpretive quality of these sketches. I am quite pleased with the underlying strength of both of these sketches... even before any possible changes might be added.
Thursday, October 25th'
Sketch #1- " October...Through the Gap Between Costello Creek and Lake Opeongo" - oil on cradle board panel 10x12 inches
Sketch#2 - "The Late October Stillness of Algonquin" - oil on canvas 18x14 inches
Friday, October 27th
A break in the weather permitted a trip down the old Madawaskan Railway bed... now used by fourwheeler and snowmobile enthusiasts as a cross-country trail. We found ourselves alone for the most part of the day.. with just the sound of the wind and water to while we painted from on top of a railway bridge spanning a noisy creek. I completed this unusual square format for me... but it somehow seemed to fit the scene inb front of me.
Sketch #3 - "Algonquin Solitude and October Grandeur" - oil on canvas 18x18 inches
These rapids in the sketch below are located scarcely two hundred meters from the above sketch are a favourite destination for David and I. They always provoke interest and never fail to inspire a good result whenever we paint here. This day was no exception to that rule. This subject attracted me immediately ... I was drawn to its simple structure and its rich contrast between the dashes of remaining high colour... the foam and the dark water. This sketch was painted quickly again... in less than an hour because the light was again failing and the temperature we suddenly noticed had begun to plummet as quickly as the light was disappearing. Plein air painting demands that you pay attention to weather and time... or pay the price!
Sketch #4 - "Simply...Beautiful"- oil on panel 10x12 inches
Saturday, October 27th
The Weather began to shift into the pattern of what one can expect is traditional late October and early November weather fare in Algonquin Park. Cold... windy and sporadic rainy days which can turn on a dime within a mere fifteen minutes to... SNOW! And it did... just that quickly. BY late i the day the snow began to fall in earnest... and the snowflakes were HUGE... sometimes with the feeling of a handful of snow thrown playfully in the face. Such conditions make out in the open painting absolutely out of the question.... and down right uncomfortably cold at the very least. Snow on the palette is disastrous .. changing the pigment to an unmanageable porridge consistently which will not adhere to the wet canvas or panel
The Painting session is over for certain under such conditions.... however prior thought and scouting provided David and I two sheltered locations... one piece of natural cover under a dense white pine cover and the other two under comfortable porch overhangs at the Opeongo and Canoe Lake Store sites. Both sites offered surprisingly unexpected painting subjects... but most of all... they were out of the cold wind and rain.
Sketch#5 -"Last Tamarack Colour Hangin' On" - oil on panel 16x20 inches
Exactly what lay before us under the porch roof of the canoe shed.
However... Sketch #6... seen below shows the results of some serious "Imagineering" on my part and in David's sketch as well. The view from our wash room shelter location left a lot to be desired in the way of inspirational appeal! Given the reality that the weather was so miserably cold and rainy, the alternative to not painting at all was simply to use our "selective eye" and our imagination to guide the painting process. Half way through the painting, we compared notes... and found that the paintings were too similar... so I opted for ..."a walk on the wild side" and purely intuitive approach by simple dropping in a bending road... in place of the canoe the "rude" racks and propane tank. It works for me!
Sketch #5 - "A Canoe Lake View... Intuitively Speaking!" - oil on sketch 10x12 inches
Not exactly kosher perhaps... but it does capture the best part of a very bad situation and view!
Sunday, October 28th
While David helped out preparing the rooms for tonight at the motel, I ventured down the road to the central core of down town Whitney. As you drop down Highway 60 into Whitney, you pass by a string of almost identical homes... the remnants of the company housing provided for the lumber company employees... when Whitney was a forestry-driven lumber town. This one, known locally as "The Harris House" is a favourite of mine. Its gold insul brick clad exterior glows when the late day sun strikes it.. affording the opportunity for making a warm painting... even in the very depths of the hard winter cold here.
I slashed it down really... placing everything down quickly with the full intention from the start... not to correct anything. It's simply one of those..."what-you-see... is-what-you-got" that I do occasionally when the cold and time are the absolutes... the determining factors in my painting process. David admired this one when he pulled up with his truck to pick me up for the day's painting together. He liked "its freshness and honesty", he said. I hope so... because he now owns it for his growing Sherman collection! HA HA!!
Sketch #7 - " Stormy Weather Ahead in Whitney" - oil on panel 10x12 inches
This 24x20 inch panel shown below is a subject that I had been dying to sink my teeth into for too long! We had passed it twice on this visit... and dozens of times in the past. However... each time before, there simply wasn't enough water falling down this step down waterfall to create the energy and interest that I wanted, so each time... we passed it up. On this day... everything was in place. It was perfect, so we launched into action and began the very difficult process of tracking and sorting out the path of the water and rock formations. IT is a very complex subject... but worth the effort if one nailed it.
Both of us were comfortably and successfully under way when the snow came cascading down... the size of tea saucers and without let up. Within a very few minutes it suddenly became impossible to put any more pigment on the water soaked panel and the snow covered palette turned to mush. Game over! Despite this exasperating situation... you can see the potential that already exists in the work as shown. I have enough to motivate me to continue this piece in the studio. I took a couple of photo references to assist me. However... I will rely on my own imagination more to finish than the photos... simply because the water action is there... and I have that feel from my first hand experience in the field Stay tuned!... I am looking forward to getting back to this one! No distinct title in mind as yet... but some ideas were being considered at the time that I ended the plein air session.
Now... to resist the urge to "Shermanize" them back in the studio. I will let them sit for a few days and cups o' java while I follow my usual habit of pondering what might enliven the sketch... but not take away from its "painterly" and spontaneous quality. That is... after all... the strongest reason for painting en plein air and as well... is usually the defining feature of outdoor work when compared with studio. In defence of any potential changes made... this is the time when one can totally "own" the painting... by adding from memory what one desires rather than what is dictated at the scene. Small details add richness... but "small"... is the go word oin this retouch process!]
Finally... in closing off the Algonquin Adventure 2012 post... I will share a couple of "extras"... things unexpected when one journeys to such a wonderful place as Algonquin Park. Here is a bull moose we met along the way on our first day out. A large fellow... likely recovering... "his vigour" after a long rut.. he stood motionless for so long... head up that he appeared dead. Perhaps he was indeed... "dead on his feet"! HA
Here are two of the family of four curious and playful otters who chomped on clam after and clam... before coming over to the dock where I awaited this photo session with them. They must be "regulars" at Canoe Lake dock... and they showed absolutely no fear of our presence! A very special moment!
This is one member of a small flock of loons... which I first identified as Arctic Loons. I observed the group and listened to their short throaty talk... deciding by their lighter body and head colour that they weren't common loons in winter plumage. In referring to my field books, I believe they were Red-Throated loons given that the other likely possibility, the Arctic Loon is an extreme rarity on the Eastern Flyway. Also the lighter coloured and upturned bill is more characteristic of the Red -Throated member of the loon family.
David... out of the rain and wind at Lake Opeongo. Where there's a will... there's always a solution!
Yours Truly pushin' paint on Opeongo Road ... "beside still waters!"
Two Painting Pals... Painting Alla Prima in Algonquin Park!
Good Painting to ALL!!!