Plein Air with 20,000 Atlantic Salmon

May the Fourth be with you.  I was supposed to be in Algonquin Park today, and for the next four days, canoeing and painting the South arm of Lake Opeongo. But the forecast of constant rainfall in biblical proportions and near-freezing temperatures made me re-consider.  So, instead I packed-up the painting gear and headed to the Forks of the Credit River early this morning for hopefully at least a half day of plein air before the rain.  It was a cool and overcast morning with pretty weak, flat, and even light. The Park was empty, save one other soul with his field glasses checking out the ongoing northern migration.  I walked the Meadow trail, past Kettle Lake to the turn for the Falls on the Bruce Trail. Descending into the river valley I was reminded again why plein air painting is so rewarding in so many ways -- the valley slopes and still naked hardwood forest was carpeted with white trilliums.

I have painted many times down by the Credit River, but I can't recall ever seeing so much water flowing as the Spring floodwater tested the banks in several places.  But I couldn't settle .. .and moved back up the trail. On my left there was a long flood plain and open meadow leading upstream to a turn in the valley. I stopped and sketched out a few thumbnails., then a larger sketch.

With the flat light -- and a relatively narrow value range -- "squinting" to see the big shapes didn't really work.  What DID work was comparing relative colour intensity.  Even though in this light there weren't any "screaming" toxic colours there was an interesting interplay of colour hues -- slightly grayed lime greens in the maple and birch buds,  knocked-back mauves and violets in the bare sumac, and a few serious warm dark oxide reds and oranges in the cedar shadows.  I kept the mantra going "paint the shapes, stupid"... and tried to not get lazy and retreat to renderring the literal.

Meadow Above the Credit,   oil on panel en plein air,   9" x 12"

It was clear that the weather was deteriorating -- a few distant rumbles and sudden drop in the temperature.  I headed back towards the car, but on the way, above Kettle Lake, stopped to do a quick panel.  I did a pencil sketch to try and see past the detail and isolate the big shapes.  But while I was setting up the Soltek the rain came on and I had to pack-up.

Forks Sketch 2.jpg

It was an interesting morning.  The overcast sky and narrow value range made me think about simplifying shapes by massing. It also made me think about modulating large areas of uniform value by injecting colours within the same value range and intensity.

Oh yeah ... the 20,000 Atlantic Salmon.  Another reminder of how things can just happen when you least expect it.  While I was painting, alone, in the meadow down by the river, a Ministry of Natural Resources pick-up truck suddenly appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. It was followed by a convoy of half a dozen other pick-ups, SUVs and ATVs. And they all pulled in right where I was set-up painitng!  Kind of like out of a movie.  A dozen adults and teens -- all in hip-waders -- assembled, while a tanker from the MNR Turkey Point Hatchery pulled in with 20,000 Atlantic Salmon fingerlings. Volunteers with the MNR, Ontario Streams, and the Ontario Federation of Anglers & Hunters were on day three of a stocking program to release 35,000 salmon into the Upper Credit River, which by the way was a chilly 9 degrees.  A fun surprise and a feel good moment with all the young people so deeply involved in such an important resource management initiative.