Nictaux Falls: A bridge too far

Fresh off the easel
 I haven’t painted in a week and as I left for the plein air session this morning, commented that I felt a little rusty. It was reassuring that almost everyone in the group today found this spot a challenge.

with changes

The pillars are all that’s left of a bridge that once crossed Nictaux Falls above a small hydroelectric station. The water spills over a dam and between the pillars, then tumbles through a small gorge before levelling off. 

I remember canoeing this river about ten or fifteen years ago with my husband and some friends. I was hesitant then too as we put in near the top of the gorge. There was bigger water that day but it was fast. And, we still had to run some whitewater. Fortunately my husband is an experienced paddler so I just followed his lead. It was a thrilling start but I was happy to find an eddy. 

I approaced this effort with a lot of hesitation as well. There are three focal points (four if you count the falls). The centre stand of trees could be more muted.  The values seem too light. I toned down some of the greens in the second version but lost some details that worked. 

I’m happiest about the whites though there’s not much more I can say at this point. Perhaps I’ve just coasted into an eddy on this one and will need to look at it with fresh eyes tomorrow. 


Tree Rock, Baxter’s Harbour

The locals call this ‘Tree Rock’. It’s not hard to figure out why. There are many outcroppings and stand-alones like this on the Fundy Shores. ‘Tree Rock’ was the second of two paintings done today. The first was abandoned. I may go back another day and start from scratch. Things got complicated quickly with the changing light and ebbing tide. It was still a good exercise, and was useful for working out the correct hues.   

Happy to say, I hit a sweet spot with the second piece which practically painted itself. Skipping the pencil sketch, I used a gray mix to outline the tree and rock as wet on dry, added the lights, then the shadows, and finished by using wet on wet in the base rock to let the edges self-define.  

I’m always amazed at the tenacity of the fir trees and plants that grow here despite the lack of soil and fresh water. They are literally clinging to the rock for survival. When you have forty foot tides you have to get up pretty high not to get your feet wet. 

That got me thinking about climate change and after a bit of  fiddling with the detail I decided to walk away and go look for my own high ground.  


Red Roof: Light on the Hay

It was nice to get back to the Rec Centre this morning and work with the other artists from the Cooperative. 

I’ve wanted to do a study of this image for a while now.  I took it a few years ago from my car window on the way home from errands.  The buildings in the back belong to a farm on my street. 

I used a little artistic license to add a red roof. It seemed to give some significance to the objects in the painting and complete a path to the grain elevator that looks like a cross on the skyline.

I softened some hard edges in the clouds but didn’t want to lose the freshness.  

A lot of things came together that I’m happy with. The best thing was keeping my whites white. I hope you find it as poignant as I do. 


Corn fields 

Tap Root Farms opened up their fields for a u-pick this weekend.   

The pay-what-you-can model was a big draw and many people arrived to share in the harvest. There were individuals,  families, and charitable organizations. Smallish children who each carried one ear while groups from shelters took back multiples of dozens.  

Many folks arrived early from the city to make a day of it and went off looking for apples to pick afterwards (though I don’t think they’re quite ripe yet). 

Susan and I arrived with our easels and added to the festive atmosphere. I got to talk to a lot of people about watercolour and I even got my picture taken by the local paper!  

Susan painted flax while I did a quick sketch of the corn. The thin line on the horizon is North Mountain. 

I worked quickly as cars jockeyed around me for parking spots. Though normally that would bother me I didn’t really mind them. I guess I was “in the zone.” 

A reference photo will help if I choose to rework a bit of this. I’d like to capture more uniform shadows to better define the rows.  

I’m happy to have kept it light and a little loose, though I feel some work on the straight edges would help a bit as well. I’ll save the edits for winter.

Speaking of winter, I better get started blanching and freezing the four dozen sweet corn I bought… or at least the ones we don’t eat for supper. 😊

A Wet day at the Church in Kentville (painting the side door)

 Today was urban sketch day with the Plein Air Artists–not something I’ve done a lot of.  Only three of us showed up at the assigned location due to rain. After deciding the bees in Centre Square didn’t want us around, we headed to the church property hoping for a better welcome.   This was the home of the new Library and a few businesses, and no longer a church. The owner “was flattered” we wanted to paint it though he was a little taken aback when first asked.  I had to clarify that our request to paint it meant paint on paper or canvas, not the church itself.

While setting up, Elaine kept telling me it was raining but I kept making the case that, no it wasn’t. It was just a little mist… good for atmosphere. As I put the first stroke of colour on the page I had to admit that, yes, the rain was adding too much water to the watercolour.

We managed to get in about 30 minutes of work (including set up) before we threw everything back into our vehicles and ducked (no pun intended) into Tan’s coffee for a confab (and to dry off) when I ended up spilling my coffee all over the table and floor (it was a very wet day) Insert some eye rolls here.

Not enough room for the soy milk in my decaf
There was no sign of the rain letting up, so after a cup of decaf and a good discussion about local and international artists, with a few other juicy topics thrown in, Elaine and I decided to continue working from our cars.   Steven had prior obligations or I’m sure he’d have stayed too.

Elaine working from her car

The car set up was easier than setting up outside! There seemed to be a place for everything.

The steering wheel doubled nicely as an easel… img_1596

while the passenger seat held my brushes and gear. img_1595

Water and snacks tucked nicely in the cup holders.

I was set.

We were content and dry as the sky’s opened up. Rain blurred our subject but it felt to me as if we were just getting a good lesson in wet on wet.

In the end, I punched up the colour a bit to keep the mood cheerful despite the gray day. We were both happy with our end results and after this experience have no excuse to stay home in inclement weather.

Catching Waves

The weather in the south has brought some larger waves to the Bay of Fundy this week.

This was my first try at the details of a wave en plein air.  I’m missing something but I’m not sure what.  I tried to reserve the white but ended up using gouache. Then I thought maybe the trough of the wave should be darker.  
But now the edges are too hard.

Adding an “eye” helped but it still looks like I wrestled it out of the sketch book.  

It looks so easy when others paint waves but I think they will always challenge me. 

On an aside, sending out wishes for healing to the people in Texas whose lives have been turned inside out by Hurricane Harvey. Also sending hope and prayers to everyone in the path of Hurricane Irma.  Be safe everyone.

Trial run with the improvised pochade

Late Summer,  Soybeans (still green) have a few more weeks before harvest.
Today, I worked on this late summer afternoon sketch in my backyard to try out an easel setup for plein air work.

Since I already had a tripod and a paint box I wasn’t in the market for a traditional easel.  The purchase of a tripod mount would have meant drilling into my plastic cassette case that has been repurposed as a paint box. I was worried about the plastic cracking and I needed a way to hold the cover open.

Last week I was helping my husband clean up the shed and came across this metal bracket/shelf that was obviously used for mounting some equipment with the attached Velcro.
Flipped over and attached to the tripod with the Velcro straps it looked like this.

It was stable! I was anxious to try it out.

Today was the first chance I had without venturing too far. 

sitting height

standing height
It took about 10 minutes each to set up and tear down but I think I can get that down to five.  I tried a few different C-clamps to hold my sketch book and settled on an easy pincer grip that will hang on the tray when I don’t need it.  An extra Velcro strip holds my water bottle and stabilizes the easel.

All in all, a little ingenuity went a long way.  I was glad I could minimize my footprint by using what I had on hand.  I’d be curious to know what other painters are using.