Rigaud River Willows (oil on canvas 7 x 9 in.) Sold

4 August 2014 finds me looking out at the Rigaud River, from between two big old Willows at least 70 cm in diameter, with heavily ridged corky bark and moss-streaked bases. They are rooted in a jumble of granite rocks strewn with sticks and bark drifted there in spring floods. The left one has a felt of tiny rootlets over rock that it uses for feeding when the water is high.The right one elbows out near its base, leaning against a young Elm. These are not the native Black Willow, as their leaves
have simple petioles with no stipules. Their branches make a finely foliaged golden green dome high above me, which we could see from where our trailer is parked. The Basswood to the right of my Willows casts a deeper shade, its boughs of dark broad leaves droop toward the water. The shining, dark green of the leaves indicate that it is well nourished here, unlike our yellowish Basswoods on the Smiths Falls Limestone Plain. A black and white striped Warbler with a white breast flies up from the riverbank to quietly flit and pick along one of the willow branches that frames the view I'm painting.

A small but vigorous Green Frog chorus has just struck up, right on time at 12:55 down the river to my left, but doesn't 'practice' for more than a minute or two. The water is flowing about one metre every 8 seconds, golden and slightly cloudy over the stones that ghost its bottom. A small clump of Arrowleaf reflects itself in the strip of shade among scattered boulders on the opposite bank, and Grape vines hang from Ash and Willow, curtaining from view all but the rakishly angled peak of a collapsed farm building. A Crow caws raucously, in flight over the clover field behind me.

Fred returns with news of a place where there was a horizontal Willow trunk that seems to have concentrated mussel shells which were being washed downstream. He found five species there, including Alasmidonta unulata and Strophitus undulatus, and cached his bag before coming to find me. As he steps down next to me, he notices a Helleborine orchid with tiny dusty-rose flowers, which both of us have nearly stepped on - and down along the water's edge, a small Smilax vine beaten down by recent higher water, clay on its leaves.

The shore here is littered with mussel shells, Elliptio, Pyganodon, and Lampsilis, with lots of little Sphaeriids so embeded in the clay that it is very hard to pick them up. I went down to see, and took a photo of them. Half of Fred's sample of them were caught in the red aquatic roots of my Willows.

This site is about a kilometre downstream of the Trans Canada Pipeline crossing of the Rigaud River. We are already packed up to go north to the Ottawa River, but I had to come back to this enchanting spot to actually put paint on canvas and get the colour of the scene between the trunks - which I couldn't have done from a photograph. In my photos either the river is too bright or the trees are too dark. Getting a good start en plein air is important for this one!


  1. Nice painting! The Willows were likely the eurasian Crack Willow (Salix fragilis), which are quite massive and more common than Black Willow between Ottawa & Montreal.


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