Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Musquash Bog

"Musquash Bog" oil on canvas 36 x 24 in.
8 July 2013 found me wandering about, entranced, in the most beautiful bog I've ever seen - near Gooseberry Road, Musquash, New Brunswick. From the photos that I took that day, I painted the botanical detail, "Cloudberry Kiss" , a portrait of a ripe "Bakeapple" berry, traditionally harvested here by local residents.

Recently I revisited those photos, in search of a subject for a large commissioned painting, and found one view including most of what you see here. Two other photos supplied a second clump of Pitcherplant leaves (at bottom centre) and the tall Pitcherplant flower at the top right.

I described my experience in the bog, in the post for that little painting:

"As the bog opens out from the forest, it looks the same as most other bogs, hummocky and bushy, with scattered stunted Tamaracks and Spruces - rather bowl-shaped, with the shortest trees towards a the centre, and with islands of taller vegetation. Cotton Grass bobs and blows its white tufts above the surface and gives the whole bog a lively twinkle.

"Hackmatack" - that's what Tamarack is called by New Brunswickers, Charlotte told me, as I photographed an Arethusa bulbosa Orchid bloom in a setting of hoary gray Tamarack twigs low against a hummock of moss and Cloudberry, (which Charlotte calls by its local name of "Juneberry)". Saskatoon also has a local name, "Huckleberry", and it's berries are blushing now. Charlotte says they will be ripe and blue at the same time as the Blueberries.

"Leatherleaf is the dominant shrub in this bog, with comparatively little Labrador Tea, but what I saw of that was blooming in a starry froth of dainty white flowers. There are two kinds of Orchid blooming, both pink. Arethusa bulbosa is called "Dragon's Mouth".  It has a streaked and ruffled 'lower jaw'.  Calopogon pulchellus, Grass Pink Orchid seems to hold its blooms upside down, with the bearded part upward. 

"It seems that everything is either blooming or fruiting. I rove about with my camera like a kid in a candy shop. I can't decide whether I'll paint a flamboyant pink orchid or a forest of tall, sculptural Pitcherplant flowers, or a slender taffy coloured mushroom in a setting of red Sphagnum framed with the white lace of Cladonia lichen. Every few steps leads me to a fresh, intimate bog scene more deliciously coloured and detailed than the last. I could do twenty paintings here in this magnificent place - truly the most beautiful bog I've ever seen - and it's crowning glory are the Cloudberries!"


I thoroughly enjoyed doing this painting, working on it intermittently over the course of 2016 and into this winter. Having lived with it for all that time, I can honestly say that of all of my paintings, this is the one original I've been most loth to part with. Each area as I finished it, fit into the whole like a piece into a puzzle. When you stand close enough to touch the painting, with all of its flowering, fruiting details larger than life, it welcomes you into the world of the bog - the next thing to being there!

This painting, being the largest of any of my renderings of "habitat", is drawing me into a dedicated study of the fascinating depth and texture of the earth's natural covering - the living, breathing communities composed of and supported by plants and fungi. This living covering is the engine of "carbon sequestration", a major natural remedy to the crisis of climate change. Watch for more larger-than-life, on-canvas celebrations of carbon sequestration as Fred and I explore this concept!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Cardinalflower in Shade

                       oil on canvas 10 x 20 in.  $950

6 August 2016 found me rejoicing over flaming spikes of Cardinalflowers in bloom on a steep creekbank thick with Buttonbush and Decadon, near its outlet into Upper Rock Lake at Opinicon Road, 8 kilometres northwest of Battersea, Ontario.

We had just come from helping staff and volunteers of Nature Conservancy Canada in a cleanup bee at the old cottage site on Fishing Lake, where we'd discovered the rare freshwater mussel Ligumia nasuta in 2015.

Now, as Fred walked the shore of Upper Rock Lake for mussels and snails (finding a couple of Pyganodon grandis mussel shells, a couple of Brown Mystery snails,  Campeloma decisum, and a dozen adult Banded Mystery Snails, Viviparus georgianus - strangely "peeled" by a predator).... I photographed the Cardinalflowers for a painting.

Photographing them in the direct sunlight did not work. The red was too bright for the camera, and glared out to orange, so the shade would have to do. 

When I painted a watercolour of Cardinalflower in Tobermory Ontario in 1983, I had to buy a special tube of "Windsor Red" for it. This time, in water-mixable oils, I used three colours of Cadmium Red, and also

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Sports Car Factory Winter

                                             oil on canvas 5 x 8 in  $275

1 February 2017 finds me sitting on my painting caddy in the snow, in front of the Sports Car Factory in Hallville, Ontario, working on the first painting in what I hope will be a series - of one of my favourite anthropogenic places in eastern Ontario. 

Rather like a museum, both inside and out,  there are old cars and parts of cars leaning against walls, and parked and piled by the Ashes, Elms, and Apples around the perimeter of the yard. A monstrous ancient tractor parked in a sunny corner on the south side of the building, waits like a patient draft horse until it is wanted for pushing snow or rearranging old Jaguars, Austins, Mercedes, and Landrovers collected for parts. I love wandering about with my camera, capturing images of curved metal of various antiquity, either emerging from or becoming one with the landscape. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Sydenham Woods

"Sydenham Woods" oil on canvas 12 x 24 in.
22 September 2016 found me painting the slope of a forested ridge, southeast of Alvinston, Ontario. Yesterday we drove in to a waypoint we'd been given, thinking it was a rendezvous with the Ontario Nature field team, driving in along the narrow track through mature Carolinean forest to prospect for a painting site. We drove back out again to find the field party on the opposite side of the river, and there I painted the Sydenham Sycamore. So on this day we parked outside the woods and walked in to the site we'd selected for the second commissioned painting - the trunk of a majestic Burr Oak, the great smooth trunk forking above my head, and the scene looking down through the sun-splashed woods toward the unseen Sydenham River. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Sydenham Sycamore

"Sydenham Sycamore"  oil on canvas 20 x 24 in.
20 September 2016 found me on the bank of the Sydenham River, 4.3 km southeast of Alvinston, Ontario, painting the joined double trunks of a huge Sycamore tree as Fred waded the shallows, searching for freshwater mussels. 
This part of the Sydenham River flows through land that has recently been acquired for conservation by Ontario Nature, and we were there with staff and volunteers to survey the river for its general biodiversity and rare mussel species.  
This spot was perfect for the first of two paintings that commissioned by Ontario Nature.
I set up my easel as close to the edge of the clay bank as possible, fascinated by the big old leaning Sycamore, its roots undercut by the river, its leafy crown towering high above the other river-edge trees - and how the mottled bark of its younger trunk was as smooth as my arm, while the bark of its main trunk was dark and scaly.

Down in the river there was much excitement as the first of each species was brought,

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

NEW!! 2017 CALENDAR Aleta Karstad's Water Paintings

My new calendar is out! It has twelve of my favourite river and lake paintings. Some are recent, and some my friends and followers have never seen.

I've heard the comment more than once, "This is your best calendar yet, we love it!" Actually, I think so too, because water, especially moving water, is my favourite subject to paint.

You can see more information and preview the calendar pages by clicking on the image of the calendar in the upper right hand column of the blog, or simply order yours by hitting the blue button under the thumbnail image of the calendar to your right. You can see it listed with our recent books at The Library of One Thing And Another.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Turkeys Crossing

"Turkeys Crossing" by Aleta Karstad
    oil on birch 4 x 4 in.  $112
26 December 2016 finds me parked on the bridge in Bishops Mills, sitting in the passenger seat to paint the creek as it comes down past the place where the dam and mill were built in the 1840's.

A snow-covered fallen tree in the middle-distance makes me think of a dinosaur, and then two pairs of Wild Turkeys (real, modern, feathered dinosaurs!) come down to the open water, drink briefly, and then each spreads its broad, blunt wings to fly into the trees on the other side.

I'm happily painting away, enjoying my annual birthday tradition en plein air -

Friday, November 4, 2016

La Grande Chute

"La Grande Chute" by Aleta Karstad
oil on canv. 14x18 in  $1300

22 July 2016 found me on the east side of the Dumoine River, just below the Chemin Dumoine  bridge. 

The Dumoine is The last undammed wild river in southern Quebec, and its drainage basin is the largest area of unfragmented southern boreal forest in Quebec. We were here as part of the Canadian Parks & Wilderness Society's surveys of the biodiversity of the Dumoine drainage. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Return to the Nature Journal

I bought a "Moleskine" blank-paged journal book just before leaving for our family reunion in Alberta and British Columbia, having decided to travel light and not take my oil paints, but work in ink and watercolour instead. It has been so long since I wrote one of my looseleaf journal pages that I thought I'd try something new... I mean old - returning to working in sewn-bound hard cover volumes, because the Moleskine is so charming, and of archival quality.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Long Lake Beaver Lodge

Oil on linen (6 x 6 in.)     $275      
5 March 2016 finds me painting with Phil Chadwick on still-frozen Long Lake, near Outlet, south east of Lyndhurst, Ontario. We are facing the south west end of the lake, and facing the breeze as well, which chills our faces and fingers even though the temperature isn't much below freezing. Occasionally the sun gleams through the clouds, making golden sparkles on the distant edges of ice where the shallow end of the lake has begun to melt. Phil stands at his easel while I sit beside him on my painting caddy, holding my canvas, palette balanced on my knees.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Yarrow With Junco Tracks

oil on canvas 6 x 6 in.   $275

18 February 2016 found me finally out to paint en plein air in the snow! It was sunny and -7C after fresh snow. I went out on snowshoes from our back door, balancing tippily in the old deep path through the back yard, and then breaking 10 cm with each step into new snow, 'till I'd passed our "young" Sugar Maple and into an open spot where the dry flowerheads of Yarrow poked above the snow. The tracks of a small bird patterned the snow among the stiff brown stems, stopping at those it could reach and scattering a few chaffy flower bits. The sun was still above the cedars when I spread my extra jacket on top of the snowshoes

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Musquash Woods

         oil on canvas 20 x 24 in.                                                                         

I've just completed a commission from reference photos, taken for my Shore Birch painting, on our hike along the Butler Beach trail near Musquash, New Brunswick in 2013. It is wonderful to have a large canvas for this painting - large enough to be able to make the curls and shreds of Birch bark crisp and smooth, and to even show the little horizontal lenticel marks.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Sturgeon River Early Snow

oil on canvas 6 x 12 in.                                                                                                                  $450

30 October 2014 found us at the Sturgeon River, 16.3 km E Jellicoe, Thunder Bay District, Ontario.   This is half a kilometre north of where the Energy East route crosses this rocky brownwater river. We'd turned off the Transcanada Hwy 11 along Camp 51 Road, and walked down to here, on the east bank just below an island. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Moose Jaw Riverbank

Oil on canvas 7 x 9 in.              $425

11 October 2014 found us 9.5 km east of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, approaching the north bank of the Moose Jaw River on foot. We forced a path through waist-high vegetation, downhill toward the riverbank. It seemed that everything was growing there, not mixed together, but in patches. Clumps of wild Asparagus, a band of American Licorice, Wolf Willow, and more. I wanted to pause and write descriptions of each change in vegetation

Friday, January 15, 2016

Hatless Hoodoos

Oil on canvas 5 x 7       $350

16 August, 2015 found me exploring Hoodoos Trail, southeast of Drumheller, Alberta, with my sister Karen Rathbun. The day was sunny and windy, and the desert landscape searingly bright. Wind and rain and frost are wearing away the softer rock and clay, leaving standing shapes protected by "hats" of harder rock.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Red Deer River Cottonwoods

oil on canvas 8 x 8 in.     $400

11 August 2015 found me admiring the great Cottonwoods at the Bleriot Ferry Campground, northwest of Drumheller, Alberta. The campsite is over-bowered by Eckenwalder Cottonwoods mixed with some Populus balsamifera, (our familiar Boreal Balsam Cottonwoods), both of them growing to more than a metre in diameter. 

A distant view of the sunlit banks of the Red Deer River peeks through the downswept Cottonwood boughs, and the deeply furrowed, corky gray bark of the trunk beside me communicates somehow, like a living wall.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Brassils Creek

oil on canvas 6 x 12 in.                             Sold               
26 December 2015 finds me perched on my painting caddy, precariously balanced with my easel on a little island of sticks and grass which is the front porch of a large Beaver lodge, on the east side of Brassils Creek, north of Burritts Rapids, Ontario. The sinking sun burns through a loose fleece above the heavier cloud bank, reflecting itself just peeking past the darkly reflected Cedars - an interesting challenge to paint quickly. Daylight succumbs to dusk early these days. A high flying flock of Canada Geese honk unseen as I finish my burnt sienna underpainting. The only other sound is the persistent trickling of the creek as it flows beneath or around something upstream - perhaps partly submerged branches from Beaver cutting.

Fred is mandated to collect some of the invasive Orconectes rusticus Crayfish for the Royal Ontario Museum, but now he finds that the water level is too high to lift any stones for crayfish, and there are none in the open to be netted. He has an alternate place in mind on the North Branch of the South Nation River, so he picks shriveled Highbush Cranberry Viburnum fruit from bushes along the bridge for his night-time beverage and then retires to the truck to write his notes as I get as much painting done as I can. The dark cloud bank has already engulfed the sun, but I have an Ash tree, and Elm, and some ripples yet to paint.

Monday, December 14, 2015

"Our Breath is in Their Leaves" Karstad Art Calendar for 2016

Our Breath is in Their Leaves 2016

Calendar: $18.99

This 2016 art calendar showcases my favourite paintings of trees from the past four years of working en plein air. On each page you will find an excerpt from my journal and two images. Some provide a detail of brushwork, and others give a glimpse of myself at work in the presence of the trees themselves. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Fishing Lake Outlet

oil on canvas 7 x 9 in.          Sold

23 May 2015 found me anchored in our canoe 'Fairhaven Bay,' at the outlet arm of Fishing Lake, northwest of Battersea, Ontario. This is the granite-walled outlet channel of a narrow, 2 kilometre long clearwater lake in mixed forest, and I'm painting the narrows looking out toward the lake. 

As I sit quietly in the stern, stroking oil paint on my

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Mudpuppy Night in Oxford Mills

Oil on canvas, 16 x 20 in.     Sold

Since 1999 Fred Schueler and I have been running "Mudpuppy Night in Oxford Mills" in order to give these magnificent creatures the public attention they deserve, since they don't have any official status. These weekly outings also get us out to do winter fieldwork on a regular basis - because nobody knows what's out there unless somebody goes!

This fall we got a phonecall from Ontario Nature as part of their research for an article about Mudpuppies. This provided the impetus for me to do the painting I've always wanted to do. Some day I would paint these giant aquatic salamanders as they appear on the creek bottom through shallow water by spotlight. So as soon as we got home from New Brunswick in late September, I set aside a week, and from my field experience and photos taken while wading about with