My wife, Caitlin, fractured her ankle in three places (and dislocated it, too). I believe there is a medical term for that. As you might imagine, things got a little hectic; especially, with two little kids around. So, I took about a two month break from painting, but this painting was the one that got me back on track. The idea for this scene was inspired by a hike through the John Burroughs Nature Sanctuary in Ulster County, New York.
Burroughs once wrote about a man who reported that his vision improved after getting sprayed in the face by a skunk (or something along those lines). His observations in nature are as thorough as they are entertaining. I often wonder what it would be like to have that much time to observe nature and to spend an entire half a day sitting around outside, as he often did. Here’s to John Burroughs and a renewed zeal for painting in watercolor!
This place is not far from home. A swamp, a wetland, a breeding ground for a myriad of organisms. Some we consider charismatic, some consider us their host, and some we don’t recognize. It’s hard to walk by without noticing things here, especially, in the fall. What was a sea of green is now a textury color kaleidoscope. This season seems more fleeting than the rest. So little time, so much to paint.
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!
I put together a short video that outlines my typical creative process for painting nature scenes in watercolor. It is quite simple: wander around someplace, find something that you think is interesting, take a picture, and put it down on paper. You might be thinking: yeah, easier said than done, but I hope you might draw some inspiration or ideas from my process. Please enjoy!
I rarely paint in plein air, but I would like to get into that habit. I don’t mind the cold or the occasional curious observer. It’s just that I am spoiled by the ease of working from a photograph, indoors where I don’t have to worry about the light changing rapidly or the wind blowing away my art supplies. Still, I plan on sacrificing these creature comforts for a different experience and greater challenge…maybe.