Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Painting In The Rain -This Artists' Journey


Last week I spent four days at the most magical place on earth: Lake O'Hara in Yoho Provincial Park in BC. This is a place I have been to for the past 6 Septembers. The first time I went, we had 25 degree weather (celcius) and full sun each day. Since then we have had maybe 2 days of sunshine, but this year we had 4 full days of on and off rain -when I say on and off, I mean it changed every 15 minutes between sun, rain and sleet.!

On our first day, the sun came out for long enough to get us inspired to hike up to Opabin Lake. It takes work to hike your painting gear up the sides of mountains to reach glorious alpine lakes and golden larches. No sooner did I get set up and half the painting blocked in, when the mountain I was painting disappeared, shortly after which we were engulfed in freezing sleet. We were instantly frozen and it was all I could do to put my stuff away and back into my pack and run for cover in the forest below us.

The next day vacillated between snow and rain. So the question was: do I set up and paint in the wet and cold? I decided that painting is why I was there, so I set up beside a small creek near the Elizabeth Parker Hut where we were staying, and got in a little 8x10". One thing about the rain is that it brings out all the incredible colors in the landscape, where in the sun all those subtle colors are wiped out by the light. My plein air umbrella saved the day and kept the painting relatively dry. Luckily it wasn't windy -heavy wind is the only condition in which it is impossible to paint en plein air, as everything blows over, no matter how you try to anchor your tripod. I have made many monoprints on my painting shirts!


This is what my camera captured. What you don't see is the amazing array of colors in the creek and the foliage. THAT'S why I paint en plein air, rather than from a photo! The colours in the painting are what I actually saw with my eyes. Now I have to admit I have a highly developed ability to see colour. They are there, but most people don't notice them unless you point them out. 

"Rainy Creek", 8x10" plein air oil

On the third day the weather continued to be bleak and I opted to go hiking instead. We hiked up to Lake Oesa, passing Victoria Falls on the way -had to stop and make a small pen and ink and watercolour sketch. Then we took the alpine route via Yukness Ledges to the Opabin Plateau. I had never been up on the Ledges before and it was thrilling to scramble around the huge rock fall and look down to turquoise Lake O'Hara far below us. Without 30lbs of painting gear on my back, the hike was surprisingly easy. We explored the whole of the Opabin Plateau where there is wonder at every turn. As I already mentioned, photos don't do the area justice, but here are a few pictures from our hike.
On our last day the sun was peaking out a bit more frequently so I decided to give painting another shot. I set up in front of the cabins on Lake O'Hara, determined to challenge myself.

"On The Edge", 12x12" plein air oil
And what a challenge it was. The rain was coming from many different angles and I had my umbrella between my legs in an effort to keep the rain off my painting and off myself! But weather aside, the optical challenge was incredible. First, there was the reflection of the bushes and trees in the water (remember the color is saturated in the rain?). Then there were rocks that were sitting in the water, half of them were sticking above the water and which cast their own reflection onto the surface of the water, and the rest of the rock was below the water, influenced by the depth of the bottom of the lake. At depth the lake is a remarkable turquoise, but as it gets shallower, the colour changes to the red orange of the silt on the bottom. Now most artists would SIMPLIFY the scene, but I decided to see if I could capture what my eyes were seeing, rather than try to impose my own design and color sense into the painting. I don't know if it is a great painting, but I think I was successful in rendering what it actually looked like to be standing there at that moment. All that heavy thinking kept my mind off of my freezing fingers anyway :)

Enjoy!
Sharon

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