Not Quite An Ice Storm

Not Quite an Ice Storm

26 December 2009     4x6 inches     oil on canvas

Such short days we have, and especially when they're cloudy!   My Birthday December 26 has been darkly overcast with freezing rain. We drove out to "The 18 & 20 Bridge" a few minutes from home, to see whether the familiar Maple swamp offered an interesting composition for a quick painting, and I figured that it did, so Fred walked ahead to the Scotts' place, to give them a loaf of Stollen bread, and I sat in the drivers seat with the passenger's window open, two wheels deep in the snowbank by the guardrail on the south east corner of the bridge.

The striking feature of this scene was the corrugated drifts of snow on the yellow-green slush below the bridge. It's hard to imagine what aerodynamics would have caused this series of drifts: perhaps wind blasting under the bridge as the creek was slushing over. Upstream of the corrugations there was a 2 x 3 m patch of thin clear black ice, which must have been the area that froze over most recently. The trees were all burdened by what may have been about 6 mm of excess diameter ice (seemingly more here than around Bishops Mills), but the temperature has remained marginally above freezing so that most of the drizzle doesn't accumulate, but rather drips off without a net removal of the ice that is already present. I started with a fresh underpainting of greyish lavender, as the forest branches seemed to blend into that colour in the evening light. The upper surfaces of snow appeared to be picking up a pinkish glow from somewhere even though the sky was heavily grey - but the faces of snow was bluish.

These tints are very difficult to perceive, and never show in photographs. I sort of have to unfocus my eyes, or look with colour-seeking glances in order to identify different hues in something as subtle as snow. The colour of the open water over ice also took quite a lot of 'glancing' to figure out what it was, and to decide to mix it with cobalt and yellow ochre, dulled with a hint of ultramarine and dark red.

The multitudinous twigs were also a challenge. I decided to try brushing them in with sweeping overall gestures of thick pinkish white, sparkling only a few crisper individual branches and twigs as representatives. Yes, they are all individual twigs, but they can also be seen as masses of twigs - which works in a time sensitive plein air painting.

After an hour to work I lost my daylight, so I packed up and drove down the Scotts' lane (nearly slid into their ditch!) to meet Fred. We visited with Scotts for a while, admiring their Christmas tree. The heat from their woodstove felt wonderful!  We returned home in the dark through Limerick Forest where we spread two buckets of bedding from our chickens to fertilize the trees at the Headquarters - home to steam Blue Mussels for supper from our "30 Years Later" visit to Bar Road, St. Andrews in New Brunswick.

It's been a happy birthday - my 58th!

Fred's database entry for this painting reads as follows: Canada: Ontario: Grenville County: Oxford-on-Rideau: Co Road 18/Middle Creek, 3.1 km NNE Bishops Mills. 31B/13, UTM 18TVE47 458 717 44.89865N 75.68608W. TIME: 1533-1630. AIR TEMP: 0.5, drizzle, breezy. HABITAT: slushily frozen-over slow creek/Red Maple swamp@rd embankment & bridge. OBSERVER: Aleta Karstad Schueler, Frederick W. Schueler. 2009/335/a, visit () (event). natural history, oil. birthday painting of channel & swamp below bridge. Co-ords corrected from 44.89865 N 75.68608 W to 44.897753, -75.686215 on the basis of Google maps.


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