Sunday, October 27, 2013

Frontenac Rock Face With Rock Tripe (oil on canvas, 8 x 16 in.) Sold

14 October finds me painting a lichened rock face in the woods along the Fishing Lake Road in the Frontenac Axis north of Battersea, Ontario.

"Don't say That's a nice view to paint," I tell myself. "Say, This is compelling! Should it be 11 x 14 horizontal to show the ferns and rock tripe below the forest - or portrait shape? The mosses and lichens are flowing down the face of the rock, following the  crevice like a waterfall, so it must be a narrow vertical. THAT is compelling!"

The touselled patch of Rock Tripe curls like hand-size scraps of wet canvas painted dull olive green, showing their black velvet undersides where the edges turn up. Some kind of woodsy Goldenrod leans toward the left from a patch of Polypody near the centre of the scene, and I decide to include it for its energy - though it is just a thread of stem with narrow leaves, punctuated toward its tip by a strung out constellation of fluffy spent flowers.

Compared with the strong contrasts of the rock face, the woods above the ledge are soft and pale, trees glowing in autumn sunshine and showing a bit of pale blue sky. Large Red Oak leaves poise like hands making gestures among the stems of Honeysuckle at the crest of the rock face, and fallen Sugar Maple leaves make vermillion accents where they lodge among the Dryopteris ferns near the top.
Covering my canvas with dark red under paint, I glance up at the rock face just in time to catch the silver flash of a water drop catching a sunbeam as it falls from the dark matted beard of moss still wet with last night's rain. Polypody ferns are feathering the wet rock, shading the purplish patches of Peltigera. This rock face would keep me busy painting lichen and moss details for weeks. I can fit so little of its enchanting detail into one 8 x 16 canvas!

A peeper calls in the lazy late afternoon quiet then a breeze rises and dry leaves fall from the treetops like footsteps on the path behind me. Suddenly a crisper leaf noise, not the shuffling clatter but a series of explosions in the leaves beside me and I turn to look only to glimpse three movements in the litter as something small bounces invisibly from one spot to another three times and then silence. I imagine a dark velvety Gray shrew face is peeking out from beneath a leaf, nose wiggling from side to side as it, like me, asks "what was that?"

Two Spring Peepers continue their autumn calling from the trees as the evening cools. Just after 5:00 Fred returns from his exploration of the woods, and watches me paint until nearly 6:00, when we pack up and leave just as the Sun notches the westward ridge.

Dear patrons and supporters,

The originals of the Frontenac Arch series including this painting will be shown at a special exhibition at Grace Hall, Sydenham, Ontario, opening on 1 February 2014 and closing on 29 April. Everyone is invited to the public reception and "talk by the artist" on 22 February. 

Aleta Karstad

1 comment:

  1. This ledge is in deciduous woods on knolly/rock-outcrop area near a seepagey brook. Recent reforestation is attested by the modest size of the trees, and by two big shade-suppressed Rhus typhina (Staghorn Sumac) down along the seepage/brook - one grappling, post mortem, with the air, and the other 15 cm DSH [diameter at stump height] barely hanging onto life. There's two 25 cm DBH Betula alleghaniensis (Yellow Birch) down in the low area along brook. Diervilla lonicera (Northern Bush Honeysuckle) caps the ledge Aleta is painting – reaching and gesturing like Salal. Rubus odoratus (Flowering Raspberry) is pale yellow at the foot of the slope with a few Rubus canadensis (Blackberry) whose leaves are still green.. Red rock shows through under the hanging Umbilicaria mammulata (Smooth Rock Tripe) with traces of algae and little pale blips of lichen – one wonders if this under-tripe flora has been studied? The Goldenrod in the painting is probably Solidago caesia (Blue-stemmed Goldenrod). There's no rare ferns here – just Polypodium and Dryopteris marginalis (Marginal Shield Fern) - unless a few tilts of the Dryopteris fronds indicate a hybrid of some sort.


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