I painted this watercolor in January 2020. A typical northeast gray winter afternoon. The sun is shrouded in thick clouds. In January this place is very quiet and solitude is possible. In the spring, summer, and fall – get your socializing hat on.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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!
The trail turns eastward and the walker, if walking early in the morning, is rewarded with an illuminated morning view of Boston Mine at Harriman State Park (NY). This old iron mine was last worked just before the 1800’s came to an end. With the sun shining so dramatically over this relic, the walker may be seduced for a closer look into the mine, as I was, but do beware of unsteady rocks and saturated ground within. Best to have a quick look and continue on sauntering.
The sun is many things – a star, a giant sphere of energy and hot plasma, the center of our solar system. I also think of it as the star of aesthetics. It is the main ingredient to a beautiful landscape painting with a rustic old barn; if the direction of light is well represented it is likely a success. A light and dark side is key, but what about temperature and feel? The sun painted on the hillside or riverbank adds a feeling of warmth and comfort to the picture, and the viewer may unknowingly start to smile, as a result.
The sun is the heart of our solar system; it is a driving force behind much of the activity (seasons, climate, currents) and life on earth. Throughout history the sun has been worshiped and debated; ancient civilizations built stone structures (calendars) to mark the sun’s path through the seasons. During the days of Ptolemy, most believed that the sun revolved around the earth. Then, much later, we learned it was the other way around. Today, many people are still excited about the sun, especially during phenomenons like the solar eclipse, but most of the time it sort of goes unnoticed.
This is an exciting time of year to notice the changes! During the next 5 days, I’ll make an attempt to be a bit more mindful of the sun by noticing its intensity and position in the sky. I may try to compare to the sun’s presence a month ago. Each day, I will post a photo taken “into the sun” as a way to reflect on the sun during this time of seasonal transition, when the sun becomes a bit dimmer and more pleasant, like turning down the lamp light in the house for a more relaxing mood. I hope this little 5-day activity inspires us to notice our natural surroundings more often.
This is a quick watercolor sketch of the Hudson highlands in the distance and a glimmer of Lake Skannatati; one of the many lakes in Harriman State Park. The park is an outdoor paradise for city dwellers as well as suburbanites who travel here on weekends. The trailhead parking lot was a sea of screaming adults, kids, and clicking cameras. Walk about a mile up the red trail or the “long path” and all the noise and calamity fades away. It seems that most people “experience nature” from the comfort of their cars. On a beautiful day like this, the only thing that could make it better is a nice cold beer after the long hike!