Monday, August 11, 2014

Painting on the White River

On the White River

My favorite place to paint while I was in Arkansas, was at the White River tailwaters near Beaver Dam. The river is icy cold because it's flowing from the bottom of a very deep dammed lake. It's a popular trout fishing spot for that reason.The river level changes during the day with the release of water from the dam upstream. Fishermen arrive early, wearing waders despite the 95 degree heat, and pack up when the horn sounds signalling the release of water. Each day when they left, I had the river almost completely to myself. I loved the solitude and fell easily into the rhythm of painting while absorbed in the stillness of the trees and the gentle rippling of the river.

On my first day, I set up on the edge of the river and focused on the opposite bank. The river was low enough to see part of the rocky bottom. I was about a half hour into my work when the warning horn sounded. At first there was little change in the river. But gradually a sound like rapids could be heard and the current became noticeably faster. I had to paint faster too because the rocks along the bank I was painting were getting covered by water. I included the rising water in the painting. 

Water Rising 9x12 oil
©T Grillo Laird

I had such a good painting day that I returned the next day. The sky filled with clouds as I set up. I wondered if the nearly constant rain was what caused the river and surrounding woodland and even the humid air to seem infused with blue and green color.

Choosing from half a dozen possible painting subjects, I turned my easel towards the bluffs rising high above the river. I set up a 16x20 panel and began to work. My palette for both days was a range of greens, blues and browns mixed from 3 primary colors.
Once again the warning horn sounded at about 12 noon and the fishermen packed up for the day. I wasn't concerned about the rising water since I'd seen the extent of it the day before, and I had set up on a rise on the riverbank.

getting started
Soon the horn sounded again. Fifteen minutes later it sounded for a third time.My husband Pete and I looked at each other with the same question.Three horns! Does that mean it's time to build an ark? I kept working.

You can see little ripples in the water as the river started to rise.
Too  soon I heard the rustle of quickening water.I kept an eye on the river to my right as the rustle turned into a steady rush. My husband started moving excess equipment to higher ground. The river had risen less than 2 feet the day before so even if it rose higher than that, I felt I'd put enough room between me and the river's edge.
I was so busy congratulating myself for timing things right as I painted,- the river was now about a foot away- that I didn't even think to look to my left until Pete called out a warning. The water had snaked around to the left and I was now standing on a little island surrounded by an icy moat. I wasn't finished painting but the water was so close that I just started tossing everything up on the bank. I watched my water thermos float away as I hauled my easel towards the bank. I finished packing up from a high spot in the woods and assessed the day's work. Though unfinished, the canvas still gives me enough information to paint a larger studio version.

as finished as I was going to get for the day
 If I return to the area around Eureka Springs, I'll surely paint at this spot again. 

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