Thursday, January 31, 2008


I started paddling white water at Letchworth State Park. The Genesee River runs north through the park, over a series of waterfalls, then through a couple miles of class II rapids - at the right water levels maybe even light III's - as it winds through a spectacular gorge. It's a great place to start paddling, both kayak and canoe. I taught canoeing and kayaking classes there with my friends at Pack, Paddle Ski, canoed with my kids, and took my wife on our second paddling date, (that's Darby in the bow; it may have been bit more than she was expecting). We have hiked in the park, snowshoed and skied. But other than a few sketches I've never done any serious painting of the landscape there, despite the fact that I've spent far more time there than the rest of the river combined, (hey, it has the only stretch of whitewater).

So last fall I called my paddling buddies and we had a couple fossil floats, (we're not kids anymore). We paddled and surfed til we were ready to drop, and on the way out of the park, as I looked over the edge into the gorge, I thought, Why haven't I ever painted this? That's when I made my big drawing board.

I had already been thinking maybe I needed to do some work on location again. That maybe I needed more information from my sketches, more than I've been putting down in my quick thumbnail sketches. And somewhere in the last several years, something has shifted in my mind - the way I see, or think about, or think about seeing, (all very different), the landscape. How much of the landscape is observed and remembered, or is in my head and becomes something more than a memory, a remembered landscape. I've had the good fortune to travel to and through some amazing wilderness landscapes, and I am often too overwhelmed by the spectacular beauty of the land to find any painting in it.

So, I headed back to the park with my board and a nail apron full of charcoal. I use to hate being spotted by people and confronted. But that's when I thought rendering was art. That depiciting something just the way it looked was the goal. People would stop for a quick look, it would turn into a critique, and I would quit. I felt like I wasn't - what, delivering what was expected?

But again, things had changed. I grew up? Became .......... more confident? Confident isn't right. Something. More sure of what I was doing and why. Anyway, when people would see me along the gorge and stop and say, Oh, an artist, can I see what you're doing? I'd step back and say, Sure. And they's look and say, Ohhhhh.......... yes. Thank you. And they'd be off and I'd be back to work. Letchworth is a big fall tourist location. I got my picture taken with two busloads of tourists. And they weren't impressed, and I didn't care. I was happily left to my drawing.

The drawings are about 34 x 44 inches. More information than I get in my quick thumbnail sketches- is that good or bad? We'll see. I am juggling a number of paintings right now- we'll see if I can juggle another one. Or two.

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