At the lake

Shuswap - Beach playpen small

I’ve been away for a two week holiday to Shuswap Lake. Our cabin is a time-share one, on lake shore.

In other years, we’ve gone on hikes through second growth forest that haven’t been touched since the early settlers logged it off. Trees are about a hundred years old, and the moss forms a thick blanket over the debris and windfall that has fallen to the forest floor.

Another beautiful trail that we’ve hiked is up one side of a raging river and, after crossing a small wooden bridge,  back down the other. It’s about a four kilometer hike in all, with seven cascades or waterfalls along the way, each as beautiful as the next.

Although I had worked hard at the gym all year to be able to walk these trails again, about a month ago, I pulled a tendon in my knee which still hasn’t healed and so I couldn’t walk anywhere except on the flat. With foresight, I had my painting kit and I took it almost daily to the beach to draw the children playing, the adults lounging, the dogs leaping and cavorting in and out of the water.

I discovered that Art is a hard taskmistress. She doesn’t forgive if you haven’t kept up your skills. My first attempts at figure drawing were disastrous but they improved over the two weeks.

Also, I brought four kinds of paper with me to try.  I’m a firm believer in Arches and prefer the rough texture, coldpress.  I tried their smooth watercolour paper, hot press and found it interesting to work with, much more controllable than I thought it would be. I also had some Legion paper which I have used before, also a smoother paper than the Arches rough. I find it not quite as easy to use. The fourth paper was aa coil-bound Strathmore recycled drawing paper which I used mostly for drawing with a broad graphite stick. I’ll show some of those drawings in a separate blog.

Here are the results:

Shuswap girl w red bikini small

And this wasn’t even the worst one – but after a while, I found this drawing amusing and I like it now. It’s cartoon-like.  I’m going to have to go back to figure drawing this fall.

Shuswap yellow life jacket 2 small

Yellow life jackets small

So these reconciled me with my ability to draw; but they are really small, these are about 4 inches square. If only I could regain this liberty in larger format!

Shuswap red beach blanket small

Shuswap - Beach playpen small

The colourful structure there in the middle is a beach playpen for infants! There were lots of those folding metal tube chairs and I found the patterns of them fascinating. This one was fun for its bright cotton-candy colours.

Shuswap Bathers and Dog 5 x 10 small

but I like the fluidity of this painting much better; and I like the chairs much better. This is that smooth paper and the paints settle differently than the rough. It’s not better or worse, just different – and something I will have to get used to managing, if I continue on with hot press paper.

Shuswap - Pine trees 7x19 small

We took a picnic lunch to the Provincial park which was about a mile up the road. After lunch, my younger sister and I stayed to paint while my older sister and her husband went off exploring by car down the 30 kilometer road to Seymour Inlet.

I used the smooth paper again, and limited myself to a big hogs hair brush to keep myself from getting too fussy. It’s an interesting challenge. At the end, I couldn’t get the effect of the bare branches with my big brush, so I gave in and used a large Kolinsky martin brush with a fine tip to sketch those in. The jury is out on this painting. I haven’t decided whether or not I like it.

Shuswap - Smoke from the Sorrento fire 7x10 small

I used smooth Arches watercolour paper for this. The smoke from the two major forest fires across the lake created fog-like conditions where the trees get cut out in layers. On a clear day, this grouping of trees blends in with the rest of the forest and they are completely unnoticeable.

I tried it again on a different paper and here is the result:

Shuswap  Smoky lake 2009 10x14 small

This one is on Legion paper. It has a blotter quality and absorbs the paint a bit too quickly. But I like the results of both. Because of the smoke, the sky was almost a peachy grey. It was very curious – and hard to mix, but this colour is really accurate for what I saw.

Shuswap - Smoke from the Sorrento fire 10 x 14 small

This is a 10 x 14 inch painting of the smoke welling up from the fire across the lake like a humungous storm cloud.

Shuswap -Cloud at end of lake 10x14 small

And here is the end of the lake after all the smoke had cleared. I don’t think this one is successful. I don’t like how the paint settled but I rather like the sky.

Shuswap lake 2009 7x10 small

And this one is the same view of the end of the lake, on the smooth watercolour paper. Again, I’m not crazy about how the paint settles and I’m still working with  it.  (It’s the journey not the destination that is important, right?)

Shuswap Banana boat 7x10 small

And then the kids had these inflatable boats that looked like bananas!

Shuswap Bathers sketches 7x10 small

This is the last one. I did it before I did all the others, above. It’s a warm up on the smooth paper and these are all fitted into a 7 x 10 piece of paper. Sketches, really.

And that’s all there is!  … in the watercolour category, anyway.

9 Responses to “At the lake”

  1. lesliepaints Says:

    What a wonderful remembrance of a vacation you have here. Your watercolors are vibrant and transparent and I find them very pleasing. I loved the first one of the lady on the folding chair. It has so much personality to it and is a memorable image. The colorful playpen caught my eye and the scene with the tree trunk with branches where you changed your brush. Thank-you for sharing your journey with me. Priceless.

  2. lookingforbeauty Says:

    Thanks Leslie,
    I’m glad you enjoyed them.

  3. swatch Says:

    Yowza – you have been industrious – these are great – it will take time to work through them – well done hey – I love your cartoon painting – it is so full of a character and a story – mooi man – S

  4. forestrat Says:

    Like Leslie said, it is a cool way to capture a vacation rather than the typical snapshots. It seems much more real this way, you were able to actually bring a bit of the vacation back with you.

    Speaking of industrious painting, I am reminded of a Simpsons episode where Homer gets a job doing voice over work for a cartoon. He asks his much more experienced co-voice if the cartoon will be shown “live”. Her reply is along the lines of “No, Homer. Not many cartoons are shown live. It puts a terrible strain on the artist’s wrists.”


  5. lookingforbeauty Says:

    Thanks Forestrat,
    That’s a funny story from the Simpsons.
    I’m back to working on a more “serious” watercolour. In some ways, it feels like a paint by number. It’s very large and the drawing has to be set in first before any paint goes on. If the original drawing is not good, there is no hope of redeeming the work afterwords. Watercolour is unforgiving; but it’s so much fun.

  6. fencer Says:

    Hi lookingforbeauty,

    I enjoyed your sketches and paintings as well… I like the loose quality you often have.

    Have you ever tried Rives BFK printmaking paper for watercolour? I haven’t but one painter I’ve come across thinks it works well for her… Just curious, since you’re exploring paper quite a bit.


  7. lookingforbeauty Says:

    Hi Fencer,
    No, I’ve not tried the BFK Rives printmaking paper for watercolour, although I’ve used it for printmaking in the past and for drawing.
    Thanks for stopping by,

  8. swatch Says:

    Hi K
    This is lovely record of your trip. A journey in techniques and papers. You have captured so much in one post. I like the painting of the pearly grey colour of the smoke and the groups of people on the beach.

  9. swatch Says:

    And I agree that the journey is more important than the instance.

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