Friday, August 21, 2015

Ancient Landscapes: Stromatolite Studies

I spent two days on the Ottawa river this week to paint. The weather was rough on Day One (windy, threatening to rain) and I had to leave after two hours. On Day Two the weather was quite pleasant and I managed to get in four hours of painting and sketching.

Even when I don't have a completed painting to show, there is always lots of enjoyment and learning that goes on and I am confident that I will put these two quick acrylic studies to good use at some point in the future.

Day One

On Day One I set up facing the Champlain bridge that connects Ottawa to Gatineau in order to paint the stromatolites that are visible in August when water levels are low.

My easel


The Ottawa stromatolite remnants are over 450 million years old! If you believe, like I do, that landscape is a wild and living thing, these rocks carry in them quite a story!

Landscape as a Wild and Living Thing

Transcript: John O'Donohue: The Inner Landscape of Beauty

Thumbnail sketch: the "Why?"

Watercolour sketch to test out value design
Values: Light foreground and light tree, dark midground
and medium background

Photograph of location
I realized, after I had set up, that I had forgotten some essential painting supplies when I hurried out the door. Important things like a palette and my titanium white. I managed to make a palette out of a tin I had in my sketch bag but there was nothing I could do about forgetting Titanium white!

So I decided to paint Fauve style for this quick study. I think the fauve study composition is interesting with the values reversed?

Day 1: Two hour study: Stromatolites Fauve style
(values reversed)
Shetch from previous blog post
Value Does All The Work and Colour Gets All The Glory

Day Two

On Day Two I approached the scene from a different angle and here is what I painted:

Day 2: Two hour study

In some ways, the parched and pale look of the stromalite foreground (and the tree) really demonstrates the fact that stromalites are the oldest living things on earth. I felt I needed to paint them in colours that reflected their age and refelected the ancient conversation they have held with the Ottawa river over time.

I only had four hours to paint and sketch and I took many breaks to chat with the wonderful visitors that wondered off the shore on Day Two. The visitors were:
  • a father and son catching minnows 
  • two men who had apparently read an article about the Ottawa stromatolites and decided to make the trip
  • a group of university students who came with maps that they had printed online (links below)

Group of students on trip to see stromatolites.
There was even a pair of ducks that swam over for a little visit. What a wonderful two days it was!
My duck friends

Stromatolite Links

Carleton University

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