Monday, September 9, 2013

Island in Wolf Lake (oil on canvas 5 x 7 in.)

15 August found me on Wolf Lake, Temagami, Ontario, in the company of eleven other artists for four days of making and taking impressions of the largest remaining tract of old growth Red Pine forest in North America. The Wolf Lake area is a designated Forest Reserve, protected from logging but not from mineral exploration or mining. Our mission as pARTners is to transmit our wilderness experience to others through our art. I found a perch low
on the rocks below camp,
where the tall Red Pine on the little island just broke the horizon and the low rocks in front lined up as if they were racing with the island. Sitting there and watching the cloud shadows paint the landscape this way and that, I finally made up my mind to paint the island in sun and the far shore in shadow. I set up my umbrella on the left, to protect me and my small canvas from the westering sun, and covered it with a small black tarp so it wouldn't be so hot and bright underneath.

This is rather an iconic little painting, and even though there is lots of sky and water I began with a dark red oxide underpainting to give the scene the underlying energy I can feel in it. The clouds were wonderful, piling loftily up and wisping gracefully away... and moving in darkly from the south. Actually I was racing against the clouds, and by the time I had the painting pretty well established, lacking only a few details here and there, the dark clouds had overtaken the sun and the wind was threatening to take my umbrella. I retreated to the top of the cliff where supper was being prepared under the kitchen tarps, and we all thought we'd be in for a squall - but no rain came. Apparently it was only a weather joke and before the sun set all was as bright and calm as if nothing had happened.

I spent some time after arriving yesterday, drawing Pine Beetles in my journal. These large elegant beetles are flying about these days, landing at our feet or on our sweaters. There seem to be several kinds - most of them grey - either lacy like grey lichen with black specks and a hint of copper, or large and plain velvety grey. There were glossy black ones too, with a white heart in the centre of their backs, and this afternoon while I painted on the rock ledge by the lake, a Pine Beetle flew to the trunk of a Red Pine nearby. It had red elytrae (wing covers) and a black thorax, and its long sweeping antennae had at least two bold white marks on each. It flew away again before I could put my palette and brushes down to photograph it.  A little while later a shiny black one landed with a "plop" on the ground at the base of the tree.  These are all natives. The invasive Asian Pine Beetle has not been seen in this area. Cerambycids have wickedly strong sharp jaws, for boring their way out of the tree trunks where they developed as larvae and slept as pupae - but they don't seem to bite people, even when we have to brush them off our sweaters.

The first Pine Beetle I saw on the day I arrived, was resting on the trunk of a Red Pine by the kitchen shelter.  I drew it while standing astride the roots of the tree. This afternoon, just before I began my painting of the island, I drew another gray Pine Beetle as it perched on the knuckle of my left hand.

Dear patrons and supporters,

This painting is available for $275 to support our work for conservation. If you would like to purchase it, please contact me

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What do you think of this painting, and what do you know about the subject that I have painted?