Thursday, October 27, 2016

Boats and Bridges

I live near the Mississippi and see it every day, and I love being near one of the world's great rivers. Lake Superior is a much different body of water - it is massive, cold and you cannot see across it. There is much life in it and birds swim its surface and soar over it. Unusual birds are sometimes seen in the Duluth area - seabirds like Jaegers, or hawk owls who have flown south of their usual range. Duluth is a deep, long, narrow bowl. Its steep streets rise out of the central part of the city to an encircling ridge. Migrating raptors sail over the ridge by the thousands in the fall. Hawk Ridge is a popular spot to watch this wonder. And it is a beautiful place to watch the port: from the open water of the lake through the canal at the Lift Bridge, past docks and elevators 'til it disappears into the fresh water estuary and wetlands of the mouth of the St. Louis River.

Painting in Duluth meant viewing the water with an awareness of the impact of human activity on the lake - the simple geometries of elevators, the arcs of bridges stitching across the sky, ever-present boats, from delicate rowing shells to gigantic ore boats. Focusing on building painting compositions from boats was a good way to find painting spots in an unfamiliar place and working with their bobbing, turning forms in changing light conditions was a challenge.

Bridges are interesting elements to work with as well and Duluth has many. From certain vantages you could see several of them, once again providing structure to build a painting around.

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