Monday, October 30, 2017

Painting Rocknotch Falls


Yesterday may have been the last gorgeous autumn day here. It's storming today, high winds and some rain. The wind will probably strip the last of the coloured leaves from the maples and oaks which provide the majority of the non-yellow fall colours. I have a maple tree in my front yard, but it is a Norway Maple, non-native and diseased. All the Norway Maples around here are diseased, something that causes big black spots to appear on the leaves in mid-to-late summer and obliterates their autumn colours. Right now my maple still has most of its leaves and if it weren't diseased it would still be green. But it's presently a terrible mix of green, brown and black. I have someone lined up to cut it down, but not until it has lost all of its leaves which won't be for several weeks I think. The tree is ugly, sick and has a split in it which does not bode well for its survival anyway. And there are phone and power lines running through it. While I have appreciated the shade it provides in the summer time, it also drains all of the moisture from the lawn and was the culprit in my sewage backup a few weeks ago. It is also the only suitable place for my bird feeder, so that will go as well. A winter without the birds.

The Master Artist at work

I mention yesterday because I went on a painting expedition with a local artist to one of her favourite sites. It is an old mill site on a river (McMaster Mill, on the Rocknotch Road), with several waterfalls. Beautiful at any time of year I guess, my friend has been coming here on a regular basis to paint. One of the things she likes about this spot is that is (or was) undiscovered, so she could spend several hours painting without interruption. However this old mill's days of anonymity must be over because after setting up our easels we had an almost constant stream of passersby interested in what we were doing. I am a complete novice at plein air painting, a near-novice at any kind of painting. Our subject was the area of the river just above one of the waterfalls. I brought Hapi along and she enjoyed wading in the river, standing out in the middle (a very shallow river) and letting the water rush by her. She managed not to go over the waterfall. When she was bored of that she lay down on the riverbank and napped.

Hapi and our subject matter

My friend is trying to teach me to paint. I don't know how successful she is being, I found it very hard and am not impressed with the results. Although she says one cannot expect good results until one has practiced a lot, and for now I should just be enjoying the process. Maybe so, but I did find it hard and after an hour or two was ready to just go for a stroll with the dog. In the meantime she completed three paintings, the first she said was to loosen her up and the others just to play with it. So her first painting did bear some resemblance to the scene before us, the other two were quite different. I think my problem with painting is that I am trying way too hard to make my canvas look exactly like what is in front of me, so I get very hung up on details. And I really don't know how to make the paint look like the actual scene so it feels very frustrating. I can't figure out how to make the colours and how to make the texture and three-dimensionality of it. Not to mention the reflections on the water and the movement of the water toward the waterfall and then over the edge into the pool below. Then I look over at what my friend is doing and her picture looks quite lovely even though it's not an exact copy of the actual scene.

She told me to put the painting away for a few days and then look at it, see what I think of it then. She thinks this may be the last plein air session she does this year, it will probably be too cold to go out again. But if she does go she will call me. When someone offers to teach you something that you've always thought you would enjoy doing, you don't turn down the offer. She said she has done a lot of painting workshops and she did not like it when the instructor never instructed but just let you go at it however you could and watched you flail around, all the while nodding approvingly. She preferred instructors who gave you instruction and criticism, so that was what she was trying to do. At one point she said if I thought she was being too bossy she would leave me alone but I said I appreciated her efforts. Knowing nothing I am open to advice and suggestion, but the learning process can be exhausting. I was glad when it was finally time to pack up and go home.

The viewing platform

But it was gorgeous there. Some local residents have put in walking trails and plaques giving the history of the place, and also a viewing platform for a couple of the waterfalls that are in a deep gorge.

The view

1 comment:

joared said...

Looks like some lovely scenes. Can appreciate your wanting to explore painting when you have someone willing to give you guidance. May take time for you to determine how much enthusiasm you have for painting if you don’t feel that way now. Challenging ourselves with new activities is said to be healthy especially as we age. Will be interesting to hear more about your experience in the future.