On Saturday I joined fellow members of the Peace Watercolour Society for our fall plein air painting excursion. The weather was almost perfect; sunny and warm, but there was a fiercely gusting west wind that made painting a little difficult. I had my palette and paper both taped down.
The leaves bravely clung to the branches of the aspens flaming the hills around Dawson Creek with gold.
We met at the Bear Mountain wind farm. Completed in 2009, the turbines are still a relatively new site for those of us who’ve grown up in the region.
I remember hiking this ridge before the turbines were built. The “rimrocks” along the top of the hill were a community treasure; one of those sites known by locals. Back then one had to hike about 45 minutes to reach the rocks and enjoy the view. Now the road goes right along the ridge beneath the towers, and it’s only a 30 second walk to the rocks. With progress comes garbage. It’s hard to see the broken bottles and graffiti on the rocks and not remember the beauty of the spot when it was harder to reach. The view from the rocks hasn’t changed, however. It’s still a gorgeous panorama of forest and farmland.
One thing I really enjoyed about this particular painting excursion was that I was able to bring my children along. All three have spent time at the wind park before, and they love the rimrocks. We spent over three hours there and I hardly saw them, they were so busy exploring and adventuring. There was a group of rock climbers scaling one end of the rimrocks, and they were interesting to watch, and the kids discovered a cave we hadn’t seen before. They didn’t complain about the wind at all!
I was tempted to complain a little as painting outdoors is much different from creating in the studio. Drying time, especially in the wind, is much faster. Dirt and grit gusted over the wet paint on paper and palette, and my hands cramped up as I tried to keep a tight grip on my painting board and supplies when the wind picked up.
It’s good to paint outdoors though. I found it was easier to work out depth and distance and interpret it into a painting than when I’m using reference photos. I also saw a wider range of colours more clearly.
Photographs aren’t perfect, but the days grow short and the world is white, I will be thankful for the many great photos I took this fall and the paintings that grow out of the time spent outdoors and the memories of autumn.