Saturday, July 20, 2013

High Lookout From the Trail (oil on canvas 6 x 6 in.)

7 July finds me painting from a lookout on the Five Fathom Hole Trail, south of Prince of Wales, New Brunswick. Coming down from the forest trail through a solid patch of Bunchberry with tiny green fruit, i pushed through a tangle of Blueberry and Sheep Laurel, with little Balsam Fir trying themselves out as replacements for their relations that were cut a few years ago to open this high view of the estuary.

Now I'm perched on a slope of prickly dry lichens and roots beside a hoary-twigged spruce stump at the brink of the cliff, looking across a forested granite headland toward a distant island in the 
open water of the Musquash Estuary, and down upon a jumble of boulders draped in the blackish long-stranded Ascophylum called Knotted Wrack. The seascape is marked by the band of pale lichen all along the shore between the darkness of the rockweed/upper-tidal lichen and the darkness of the forest.

Fred is below me somewhere, exploring the rocky intertidal. I've chosen a square canvas for this scene, and cover it with the dark ochre colour of the sun glowing through the heavy dark wrack. There are many fascinating shapes among the rocks which I must scratch carefully into my fresh underpainting with the end of the brush handle so that my eyes won't get lost as I proceed with the painting.

Now I paint distant water and then the near forest. Fred returns with an account of climbing down the steep Moss-Fir slope of the head of the "cove" with the support of Green Alder branches. He found lots of Periwinkle snails (Littorina littorea) above the tide level of any Rockweed. The black uppermost-tidal lichen paints all the rocks in matte charcoal, and above that is a plethora of frilly and friuticose types, including the nubbly Umbilicaria on the other rock face.

There's a brief trace of rain, then sunlight, and then dropping temperatures suggesting as cold water wells up with the rising tide, noticeably advancing with each wave. Clay-reddish water folds around the Ascophyllum black of the lowest boulders of the shore. Gulls wail in the distance, a few Crows caw, Cormorants fly down the bay, and little Warblers flit past so fast they're not identifiable.


After 7:00 the sun begins to green the forest on the far shore, which had been in shade before The tide is less muddy now, as it comes up the rocky shore. Still finding my way among the rocks with my brush, it's nearly 7:30 when the temperature, which had been 24C minutes before, dropped a couple of degrees, and the swift current of the tide is tilting the offshore buoy to a north-pointing 30 degree angle.

It's 8:00 and a comfortable 20C with light breeze as we heave our packs up through the brush to the trail and head back, stopping only to photograph a few potential painting subjects, duly recorded by Fred on the GPS unit.




Dear patrons and supporters,

This is one of a series of paintings of the Musquash Estuary Natural Area, where we explored forest, marshes and shores protected by the Nature Conservancy of Canada. The price for this painting is $275. If you would like to purchase it, please contact me.

Aleta Karstad

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