Stairway to Heaven Hike, Vernon NJ

Art, Hike of the Week, hiking, New Jersey, Outdoor Adventure, plants, watercolor
Sunny Mud Path

Sunny Mud Path, Vernon NJ

The Stairway to Heaven hike in Vernon showcases some of the most beautiful parts of northern New Jersey. But what did I choose to paint from this hike? A puddle of mud! I’m sorry, but beautiful vistas don’t always scream “paint me”. I found beauty in this mud puddle for these reasons – simplicity, reflection, composition, and color. The view from a mountain top can make for an excellent painting, but I’m craving a certain something else these days – something sort of interesting, though difficult to pinpoint.

Simplicity

I like a good architectural challenge once in a while – buildings in truthful perspective, arranged with charm. This time, I”ll take a couple of cedar trees and a muddy path, please. The freedom to paint a simple landscape promotes a sense of joy and relief, as if a tremendous weight has been lifted.

Reflection

I’ve broken a painting rule – the reflection of a subject in water should be darker than the actual subject. Not in this painting. But that’s the way it is – there is a thin layer of water covering the muddy path, making the reflection of the tree appear lighter because the sun shining on the mud under the water is bright.

Composition

There’s no mountain in the background, but artistic liberties must be taken to make things a bit more interesting. Even without the mountain, the composition of this scene made me stop walking. I saw the potential for wonderful depth  – the muddy path and lighting draws the viewer further into the painting.

Color

This scene is located at the base of Waywayanda Mountain. The habit is mostly field with numerous red cedar pioneering the area. Whether the trees were planted here, I do not know. I found the color contract tremendous. Red-ish green cedar trees (hence the name Red Cedar, Juniperus virginiana) against a straw-yellow field, with a cobalt-blue bright sky (some of that in the reflection).

That’s what hooked me then, not sure what will hook me next 🙂

 

Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens)

hiking, Outdoor Adventure, plants

Mitchella repens (Partridge berry). This is an often overlooked, wonderful evergreen ground cover for shade/part shade in the garden. It is fairly common in the deciduous forest understory. Unfortunately, I didn’t find any with the red berries still intact (which I hear are edible). This plant is somewhat slow growing and it eventually forms a dense carpet. When in bloom, the little white flowers are structured so that they prevent self-fertilization, thus promoting genetic diversity! And, it is the only plant in its genus in North America.

Memories from Past Wanderings

Art, hiking, New Jersey, Outdoor Adventure, watercolor

Let there be light- w/c 10×14”

The photo I worked from to help guide this painting was taken a couple of years ago. I’m not sure what made me go back in time; maybe the light effect, maybe the time of year. I wanted to show the light coming in from the background to light up the river with enough contrast with dark areas of the river, to keep it interesting. Things may seem just gray and brown this time of year, but I think the lighting in the winter is tremendous – like a lamp with a dimmer adjustment, yet positioned at a certain angle to still create dramatic effects.

Harriman State Park in Autumn

Art, hiking, Outdoor Adventure, watercolor

Harriman State Park in Autumn (w/c 14×20”)

I missed the peak “leaf peeping” time at Harriman this year. No bright red orange gold here. Just the remnants of gold and russet. I think I prefer this bittersweet ending scene instead of the “everything on fire” autumn scene. Can you tell I’m an introvert?

Icebox Falls – Watercolor 18×24”

Art, Hike of the Week, hiking, Outdoor Adventure, watercolor

Icebox Falls – watercolor 18×24”

The mind never stops churning, even on a relaxing weekend upstate in the Catskills (NY). The Glen Falls House is where we stayed and everyone was super nice. There are short nature trails on the property, some of which, lead to one of the most beautiful waterfalls I’ve ever seen. It’s not a big waterfall, but the surrounding rock formations are hypnotic.

Painting this was FUN. I worked on it a couple of hours after work for a little over a week. The water was the biggest challenge but the scene already offers great contrast between the light coming in through the trees and the darkness underneath the rocks. The Eastern Hemlock stand at the top of the falls really hit home. I love these conifers and who knows how long until they are destroyed by the woolly Adelgid. Finally, I went for more glow and stronger color to depict the funky vibe I feel from the Catskills.

Morning Light Winter Watercolor

Art, hiking, Outdoor Adventure, watercolor

On a recent woods walk, I took a photo of this slope. The gnarly old tree or snag probably caught my attention. But, when it came time to paint it the scene changed completely.

slope

First, I decided to put a stream through the middle of the painting. I felt the lighting needed a little jazzing up. The gray background in the photo might have been a bit bland for the painting. Never fear – the gnarly old tree made it into the scene!

Laying out the scene

We end up with a somewhat moody little scene, depicting early morning, perhaps. I like the way the rocks on the top left came out. Rocks of Harriman State Park are typically that shade (from what I recall, anyway).  It has a calming quality to it. Hope it calms you, the viewer too.

Thanks for looking.

-Kirill

Morning Light Winter Stream Painting

Watercolor Time-lapse – Precambrian Rock and Eastern White Pine

Art, hiking, Outdoor Adventure, watercolor

For many of us, the real sauce in a watercolor painting, any kind of painting, is direct experience. As I walk, the light bulb goes off, multiple times if I’m lucky. But, walk and be there I must in order to set the mind ablaze with ideas for a painting. It is a wonderful thing to suddenly be struck with excitement about re-creating, and maybe even embellishing the thing being experienced in real-time. It is one of the few things in life that doesn’t feel like pounding a square peg into a round hole; it happens with ease.

I’m still playing around with these watercolor time-lapse ideas. This is the 2nd one I’ve done since the “Winter River Scene” from a trip to Connecticut early this year. I’m fortunate to live close to Harriman State Park; a 47, 527 acre mixed deciduous forest, containing some of the oldest rocks in the world. The idea of showing the sun hitting this exposure of presumably Precambrian (1+ billion year old basement rock) is what sparked the inspiration for this painting.

There were also two gnarly Eastern White Pine growing in this spot. Evidently, this type of pine is iconic of the type of ecosystem found in this region before European settlers began exploiting these giants for economic purposes, such as ship building, and it quickly became a major export. In this painting, I wanted to show the gnarly bark of a White Pine that is allowed to reach a certain maturity; reminiscent of a time when it reached old age regularly. To cap it off, there is autumn color to celebrate the season!