Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Beating the Heat... in Style! - Part Two

In the midst of the oppressive humidity and heat wave that (too slowly) passed through the Thousand Islands region throughout last week... I was able to find an oasis in the middle of the International Shipping Channel just offshore from Clayton on the New York side of our twin borders. And what a much - needed and needed relief it was!

Last Tuesday, I was invited by my new plein air painting friend Paul Taylor, hailing from the Rochester, NY area to make a trip out to Rock Island Lighthouse with him for the day. Paul's family have been summer visitors  for several generations on our side of the River, just up river from Rockport. Last summer, he visited our gallery and showed great interest in our getting together to paint outdoors, but that was not possible then... due his heavy exhibition schedule and teaching assignments for the remainder of the 2012 summer season. True to his word, he reappeared last week... and the rest is now history. I now have a new plein air convert... and my crystal ball tells me that I have a kindred spirit to plan further forays, as our mutually busy schedules and family lives will allow.

Paul works in water colour and acrylics... mainly in the studio, except for his sketching and photographic forays. He works in a prolific and highly skillful manner, as attested by the large clientele and sales base that he enjoys. His handling of both mediums and the consistent compositional strength in his work, clearly places him firmly in the "professional" category of painters. The wide range of products that he offers, along with his commission reputation further advance my view as to his calibre.

He had never painted on location using his acrylics... and on this heavy, humid summer day and persistent westerly wind... I neither envied, nor encouraged his choice to use it for the day. Fortunately... for us both, we were blessed to find a shady place under the widespread arms of an ancient oak resident on the island for the entire day there. The cool... constant breeze was better than any air conditioning system and further added to my comfort and enjoyment of the session.

I won't try to describe my excitement in finding this painting mecca. I again will now add some of the photos that I took to give you a peek.

We skirted the entire island first in his boat ... snapping photos from the water for future reference. Then we docked and again set out snapping anything of visual interest... but at the same time carefully searching for that site we would choose to paint from. I had no problem finding one which inspired me, so I immediately retraced my earlier steps back to the boat dock and brought my kit and my 20x24 inch blank white canvas to the site. There was even a picnic table right in front of me... and as well, a high vantage point that allowed me a view which knit together the keeper's house and the light proportionally to the dimensions of my canvas. Paul decided to set up along side... agreeing that the shade was the drawing card, even though "his take" on the scene... as you will see, varied greatly from my own. A perfect start for the day!

First view of Rock Island Light  from the water... looking westward upriver

The view I chose for my composition ... painting... and shade. The diagonal foreground of shade and day lilies with main focus... the light and keeper's house in the middle ground and the deep far shoreline background create a natural picture format. Only a few "uglies" needed to be ignored/edited out !

The keeper's house is fully restored and furnished in period furniture and decor. Every room is filled with pictures and memorabilia documenting the existence of the light... from its very beginning. Note the naval vessel passing down river. Lots of traffic!

In this picture... a large river Canada Steamship freighter/ore carrier, Salarium noses slowly up river past the light, likely headed to Lake Michigan to be filled. The shipping channel is very narrow at this point... and at least two ships have met their end here as result of the treacherous shoals on both sides of this narrow passage.

Here is an elegant old "woodie" mahogany rive classic... identifiably "Rock n' Roll" as the gold leaf lettering attests. Poppa's pride... you can be sure. "Mama was a rollin' stone!".... HA! HA!

Since my canvas was previously not toned, I chose to employ a wash/stain  lay in to to begin my painting... only attending to positioning elements in the broadest sense and with little attention to any correct values. The focus was on shapes and spatial positioning of them in the picture plane... and a rapid pace to get it down quickly.

I had to keep moving my easel around during the entire session to get rid of the annoying and distracting leaf patterns caused by the sun playing through the canopy above me. That slight disruption was a very small price to be paid for the comfort of the shade itself.

Painting and location - with only slight variances. I greatly shortened the distance between the light and the keeper's house intentionally... to accentuate the relationship of one element and its function... to the other.

"Rock Island Sentinel... Restored!" - plein air oil on canvas 20x24 inches
Here is the painting as it was completed en plein air - fresh... painterly and an impression of what lay before me. I'm satisfied with the result... and won't be adjusting it at all. Ready to be framed!

 Paul... pondering his treatment of the red pine mass mid way through his painting. He plods and plots carefully, as is his method and habit. The 12x16 inch canvas shown below speaks for itself.... wouldn't you agree? Magnifique! A plein air gem!  Someone else visiting the island thought so as well. They purchased the painting right from his easel! BONUS!!!

Note: Paul's "take" on the subject more closely resembles the actual subject before him. A "detail man" for certain!

I took this very quick photo of these young Amish women... not wanting to draw attention to the fact... so not to embarrass them, or myself by the intrusion. It is my usual custom to ask permission to photograph anyone for personal privacy reasons. But since they were obviously unaware of my interloper presence... I quickly snapped the picture. Their presence and costumes seemed so much to evoke the stronger sense of the historical past associated with this place of heritage. Perhaps, knowing of the equal amount of respect that I hold for this tribute to maritime majesty... and as well, to their adherence to their faith and principles... they might forgive this intrusion . I do have plans for this photograph ... in conjunction to one or two of the many photo references I gathered on this wonderful voyage of adventure and discovery.

Stay tuned for that!...

In closing... my gratitude and thanks to my new plein air painting pal, Paul Taylor... for providing me with the wonderful opportunity to experience this lesson in heritage and for sharing his equal passion to my own for painting on location. As well... my deep thanks to on site New York State Parks Historic Site Assistant Debra Spry and interpreter Jonathan Green for your interest... hospitality and more than friendly and inviting reception during our day long stay at Rock Island Light.

I will be back again for certain... to paint further at this wonderful heritage location!

Good Painting .... to ALL!!


  1. I really enjoy your posts...not only because I admire your abilities...but because I learn so much about the area you call "home."

    What I see here are two wonderful interpretations of the same location.

    It's so nice that you can share your day with a friend!

  2. I have to agree with Wendy's comment, Bruce. Both pieces are exquisite and I like both styles of painting. Can't wait to see what you do with Amish girls photo. I too so admire their adherence to their beliefs and in so many ways wish I was more like that myself.

  3. Hi there Wendy... Thank you for your visit and for your continued supportive comments!

    Offering "my Home" to others... is a Sherman trait... learned from watching my folks as I grew up. I have long believed and maintained... that "Home" is not merely a house. For "Me"... it is more a place in one's heart where memory treasures are stored. No point in storing them... if one doesn't share them!

    The Thousand Islands is a special and distinct place - The Cape Cod of Canada... if you will! Come visit!... you won't be disappointed!

    Good Painting and... Happy summer!
    Warmest regards,

  4. Good morning Sherry!... Thank you tyoo for your visit and ever kind words! I always enjoy your visits and our ensuing chats!

    I hope that I can knit together the feelings that rose up within me when these "simply" beautiful young women entered my field of view and arrested my attention.

    My creative mind suddenly dashed elsewhere... and for those few moments was distracted from my painting activity.Two pictures were whirring in my head during those few moments. Had I another larger canvas... I would have brought home the both!

    Better get at it while it's still fresh and fertile in my mind! HA HA!!!

    I find "You" as beautiful... in spirit... in your own singular fashion... as they are in their simpler life style and traditions. We think it "simple"... but as a woman????.... I wonder???

    Good Painting and Happy Summer Sherry!
    Warmest regards,

  5. Hi Bruce, I enjoyed reading about your adventure, and I also enjoyed seeing what Paul was able to achieve with acrylics in warm weather. As always, it's interesting to see how different artists treat a subject, and they are both nice paintings in their different ways.

    The first photo, of the view of the island from the water, looks like a good subject. Maybe not a plein air one though: from a boat in a busy shipping channel!

    All the best,

  6. Good morning Keith!... Thanks for visiting... and for your impressions!

    What a wonderful painting adventure it was too! Paul is so easy to be with - an ol' water dog and River Boy ... just like me! I chose not to swim that day however. The next time for certain!

    That view that you mention is indeed a spectaular panoramic view... the kind that you love to wrap your head and brushes around... and paint so wonderfully! I might give it a go... in the studio though... for the very reasons that you mention! Too much HEAVY traffic!!

    Thanks for your continued enthusiasm and interest!

    Good Painting and sales!
    Warmest regards,

  7. Hello Bruce it feels great to be arm chair traveling with you again as you embark on another wee adventure. The beautiful light is really showing so well in your painting of the house and lighthouse. At first glance I thought you had painted a watercolour as the brushwork is so light and fresh looking. I believe we learn a lot when out painting with fellow artists, how their vision is different and how clearly we see our own as if for the first time. Keeping tuned in to more of your travels, happy summer painting.

  8. Hi there Highland Lass!... So glad to hear your voice... I've missed your on line presence!

    Summer has certainly seemed to evaporate too quickly around these parts... but it has been enjoyable and profitable for both Deb and I in our individual work! Our winter game plan and hard work has proven successful... as paintings and cards have been flying out the door during July! Fingers crossed for a similar continuance and good fortune during August!

    The lighthouse adventure was uplifting and really gave me a much needed shot in the arm/kick in the pants to get back to my ut door painting routine. The heat has receded for the present... so back at it!

    Thanks for visiting! Hope that your summer and work have been enjoyable for you!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  9. Wonderful snaps and so beautiful! it looks so lovely and comfortable! makes me want to try en plein air as well. i love your painting, it's so light and beautifully done. and i really love the snap of the Amish, what a great painting that would make.

    and such a treat to see Paul's interpretation as well, both are wonderful! take good care and stay cool my friend!

  10. Hi there Suz..... So nice to hear from you... thanks for visiting!

    It was a magical summer day on Rock Island... to be painting en plein air with another kindred spirit! It doesn't get any better!

    Being on location doesn't guarantee "better" paintings than studio work necessarily... but one does employ all of the senses simultaneously... and I do feel that this fact reads into the final outcome.

    Things have cooled down for the moment... but we did experience a terrible storm (small tornado) which left us without electricity for thirty hours straight... a freezer filled with spoiled meat... and a downed forty foot cherry tree at my daughter's home less than three minutes down river from Rockport. A mere inconvenience really... in the face of the extreme weather and tragedies felt lately in other parts of the world.

    So as I continue to maintain... we are deeply blessed!

    Stay cool... stay in the "yoke" (Couldn't resist!)... keep the brushes moving!

    Warmest regards,