|Roundtop from North-South Lake, 8X10, Carol L. Douglas|
Located on a flat outcropping of the Catskill Escarpment at an elevation of 2250 feet, North-South Lake was once split by an earthen causeway, now gone. A spit of land projects into the lake at the stub of the old causeway. This was the site of one of the seminal Hudson River School paintings, Thomas Cole’s Lake with Dead Trees (Catskill).
|Jamie Grossman wearing painting mittens made by Jeanne Demotses. It’s been awfully cold for the first week of June.|
Lake with Dead Trees (Catskill) was one of three Cole landscapes exhibited in 1825 at William Coleman’s frame shop in New York City. Priced at $25 each, they attracted the notice of Colonel John Trumbull, president of the Academy of Fine Arts. He purchased Kaaterskill Upper Fall, Catskill Mountains, which is now lost. He then encouraged writer William Dunlap to buy Lake with Dead Trees (Catskill) and artist Asher B. Durand to buy View of Fort Putnam, also now lost. All three paintings were exhibited at the New York American Academy of Fine Arts later that year, launching Cole’s career and establishing the Catskills as the center of American landscape painting for a generation.
|Beaver detritus can assume some fantastical shapes.|
Even without this background, that spit of land is a wonderful microcosm of nature. It is lined with beaver-gnawed trees, marshy on one side and rocky on the other. Last year I watched a turtle laying its eggs here. Moments after I left, two friends photographed a bear swimming where the causeway had been.
|Laurel grove, 6X8, Carol L. Douglas. No focal point, no color separation. What a mess.|
It’s a pity that my exhaustion and rustiness finally caught up with me in this paradise of paradise, and I painted a truly awful painting (above).
Yesterday dawned damp and cold, despite the NWS’ assurances to the contrary. North-South Lake was completely buried in fog, and I decided to paint a grove of laurels in the mist. Happily—or otherwise—it cleared halfway through. Sometimes it’s a mistake to chase the light, and sometimes it’s a mistake to follow through with an idea that has vanished. I made the latter mistake.
|A damp morning has its consolations.|
I’m not particularly ashamed of my failures; they’re part of the process. I never wipe them out because they teach me a lot. Including, sometimes, that they aren’t exactly failures, but rather signposts to a new direction.
Meanwhile, most of our fellow painters left, driven away by the biting cold and lack of light. It was down to me and Nancy Woogen.
|You can take the retired teacher out of the classroom, but you can’t take the classroom out of the teacher. Nancy Woogen talking to a visiting fourth grade class.|
By mid-afternoon, it had cleared, and I was able to paint the iconic view of Round Top painted by Cole and Jasper Francis Cropsey. This painting built up fast, which was a good thing, because the warmth and sun left equally quickly.
|Across North-South Lake, 8X10, Carol L.Douglas|
One last try—a stand of trees across the shore. By the time we finished, the biting cold was back, and we were hungry. But one out of three still ain’t bad.
Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me on the Schoodic Peninsula in beautiful Acadia National Park in August 2015. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops! Download a brochure here.