Thursday, October 30, 2014

Methane Swamp

I have just started a new painting. I call this one Methane Swamp

Last year at Thanksgiving, Rob and I were on our own, so we decided to go camping. We have a truck and camper. It is a new, quite comfortable three-season camper. It has a slide, so it is roomy, and the kitchen is far more functional than in most campers. 

Canadian Thanksgiving is in early October, so although the evenings are chilly, the weather is still fine for camping. We went to the mountains, and camped at a lovely place called Mill Creek. Although it is clearly a favourite place for random campers during the summer, judging by the large number of fire pits, areas of trampled grass, and abandoned beer cans, in October we had the place all to ourselves.

We arrived Saturday evening when it was already getting dark. We spent the next day hiking along the creek. That evening, I cooked Thanksgiving dinner in the camper. We had Cornish game hens stuffed with rice and cranberries, veggies, salad, dinner rolls, and wine. It tasted wonderful! It was the first time I had ever used the camper's oven, and it worked just fine. I didn't attempt pumpkin pie, however. Maybe next time. 

On Monday morning, we hiked around the area a bit more. We discovered that we were near a series of interconnected swamps. A trail cut along the hillside above the swamps. I scrambled down the steep hillside to get down to the pools and stream. 

The area was visually interesting. Dead white trees poked up out of the water at various angles. The water was shadowy blue and black. There were hummocks of yellow grass, and red oxide mud along the shoreline. We observed that methane gas was bubbling up from the mud on the pond bottom. The place had a mysterious, almost ominous feeling to it. I took many photos, knowing that I wanted to paint the scene, but not having time that morning to paint on location. 

It is a year later, and I have finally gotten around to uploading the photos off my camera onto the computer. I looked at my methane swamp photos and was disappointed. They were dark, and too busy. They did not represent well what intrigued my eyes when we were there. 

I finally decided on one particular picture to use as a reference photo and printed it out. After considering it further, I chose to focus on the top right hand corner of the photo. I took a ruler and (cleverly) marked out a rectangle the same dimensions as my canvas. This solved a problem that I often have when using a reference photo: the photo is seldom exactly the same dimensions as my canvas, and that makes it hard to get the drawing right. 

I am working on a smaller canvas than usual - 14 x 18 inches. I just finished a larger painting with quite a bit of detail, and it took me a long time to complete it. So this time I wanted to work fast and loose, and finish quickly. 

I drew the main shapes in, placing them carefully, but not putting in any detail. Then I painted in the white dead trees and their reflections, just roughly, and the yellow grasses along he shore. That was as far as I got the first evening. Tonight it took me about two hours to block in the trees, and some of the reflections in the water. 

As always, I am struggling to get the dark values dark enough. Also, this picture has lots of green in it. Green is my nemesis. I usually try to avoid using a lot of green as I find it hard to represent green the way I see it. But, in landscape art, it is not that easy to stay away from green! 

The image is quite complex. So far, I am having fun with it. 

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