Yesterday was a fine fall day up at Crex Meadow Wildlife Area in Grantsburg, WI. Gray skies, slight wind and the beginnings of Mother Nature's changing of her palette with which she paints our surroundings. The reds, oranges, yellows, warm greens and a variance of other warmer earth colors are all beginning to overtake the summer palette, except that the trees that border the bodies of water where the warmth of the water holds off some of the frost, are still holding onto their August green foliage.
The Painters soaking it all in before the day starts... Critical to seeing paintings.
I've mentioned that I've spent a fair amount of time up there, 30 miles north of me, painting now over the last few years. But this year I have really begun to concentrate on this jewel of a piece of earth. It's a place where a person can hike, bike, hunt, nature watch or paint without the fear of traffic or being told that "You can't paint there". You are free to wander anywhere that you please or dare, free to stop at any point on the many miles of gravel and dirt roads that spider web through the refuge and surrounding wildlife area. This is a real treat to have in the neighborhood and I plan to continue to make very good use of it.
Yesterday I contacted a several other painter friends in the area and 5 of us ended up making the trip up and spent the day painting. Mary Pettis, MaryAnn Cleary, Joni Jurek, Tony Hilscher and yours truly, all spent the entire day at our easels in front of the daunting but beautiful surroundings that Mother Nature offered up for our painting pleasure. We started the day with layers of long underwear, sweaters, coats and more but ended up shedding a lot of that by the end of he day. The ending was perfect, calm winds and balmy temps. This is one reason why we put up with the gnats and skeeters, wind, cold and other deterrents, to experience a day like we had outside from beginning to the end of the light... priceless!
'COLD SKIES' 9x12 Oil ©2011 Marc R. Hanson
Crex is primarily a sedge marsh, flat vistas without much more to break the distant horizon other than the slight rise in the ground elevation or a distant line of trees that make up the upland habitats that surround parts of the area. It's the kind of a place where you're tempted to just paint skies all day long. That's fine, but I find myself investigating the little nooks at the edges of the marshes, the islands that have scrubby growth on them, the expanses of sedge and other aquatic vegetation that all go towards interesting compositional elements for my work and what I'm trying to say in the paintings.
'A SLICE OF SUN' 8x10 Oil ©2011 Marc R. Hanson
Yeah it was chilly... and any sun that came out was welcome from both my physical and artistic sides. After painting the first one above I stayed right where I was and tried to grab this little happening across the pond. It didn't last long, a few minutes is all, but I tried to hold onto what I had seen and use the now overcast scene in front of me as the structural guide and my memory as the artistic guide. From here we took off for the north end of the park and the bathroom/picnic area for lunch.
'NORTH END FALL' 10x8 Oil ©2011 Marc R. Hanson
On our way to my next suggested location, we were driving through one of the upland habitats that was just beautiful with a mix of birch, maples, oaks and all of the assorted vegetation, well on it's way towards peak color. I couldn't help it, I had to stop. I should mention that the others all had limited or no experience up here. I've driven 95% of the roads with the park map and marked painting locations on it. I'm pretty familiar with what the lay of the land is now. So I assumed the 'tour guide' status and felt responsible for putting us in nice painting locations. When we drove through this area we were on the way to another open water spot that I thought would be good, a Ducks Unlimited project that is just beautifully designed for the benefit of the waterfowl's use. Oh... it was also the opening day for the Wisconsin Waterfowl Season. I knew that spot would be good at the end of the day, so we all agreed to stop in this little upland spot and paint.
'END OF A SEPTEMBER DAY' 12x16 Oil ©2011 Marc R. Hanson
Of course you can't count on the weather to do anything that you expected it to do. It didn't, it was a lot more overcast all day long than we thought it would be according to the official weather sources we checked. But...we had sun at the end and were excited by what that late light was doing to the landscape. So we get to the spot, the D.U project marsh and it is lit up so nice that there are 5 drooling painters all biting at the bit to go at it. No sooner did we set up than the overcast closed in and cut off most all of the sunlight. Every once in awhile there would be a slash of light off in the distance on the sedges that spread out for hundreds of acres in front of us. Being seasoned painters we knew that we'd just have to make the best of it and went to work. I grabbed ahold of the darkened foreground in cooler light against that sliver of sun off in the distance and did my best to try to capture that sensation that I had when it happened.
So it was a good day with 4 paintings being painted. Came home hungry and tired and slept like a baby. A good day.