This is another of the images from the Panhandle Trail I’d wanted to paint for quite some time–or should I say, I wanted to finish for quite some time. It’s a few kids in a nice deep pool in Robinson Run along the Panhandle Trail. You can see it along with others this Friday and Saturday during Rock the Quarry in my exhibit “Sun Shadow Ice & Snow: Seasons of the Panhandle Trail”.
This painting was actually visualized during one of the visits with my great nieces and nephews and I knew I’d have to paint it, but this one came about in bits and pieces, and I’ll say it evolved over a period of years. I took a photo during one visit in 2010, but that wasn’t enough information when I decided I wanted to catch the whole scene, not just the kids in the water so I went back to the spot and took more photos on my own, but no one was in the water and it just wasn’t right.
On another visit in 2011 I took lots of reference photos from different angles and even did a small pencil sketch, then individual photos of them in the water, knowing I could never get out my pastels and paint them right there. In my studio the following year I lined up my photos and visualized something pretty close to this but couldn’t get a feel for it from just the photos, so I took my pastels to the trail the next summer, 2013, and laid down the basics of this sketch while there, trying to capture the colors and light and positioning of everything. I didn’t have all the colors with me which I needed and I knew I’d be working on it in my studio to add the kids in the water so I knew I wouldn’t be finishing it right then. I set the sketch in my holding area for more work, and there it sat.
Until, honestly, last week. Though I’d been intending to get back to it over last winter, thinking of the joy of revisiting a hot summer afternoon in the swimming hole in the middle of a cold and icy winter, I just never did. Even when I decided to do this exhibit and pulled it out, I still just couldn’t visualize everything. I pulled out the sketch and the photos of the kids in the water, and it just wouldn’t come together. Something was missing. One sunny afternoon passing by the trailhead I just decided to go there, parked my car, took off my shoes and walked off to this area in my “work clothes” as I’d been meeting with a client, held my skirts up above the water and waded as far as I could. A few more photos and I was ready.
I got home and planned where in the water the kids would go, made a composite from one of the original photos, added the kids into it in Photoshop according to what I was visualizing, and finally, after four years, finished this painting! And as it ended up the “three kids” were based on my one nephew who just happened to be in the right spot in the water at the right time.
I love painting water, and never give myself enough of a chance to paint it. I just couldn’t wait to get my hands on all the details in the water as well as the direct and reflected light and the colorful shadows on the kids, the way the mid-day sun fell on the water, alighting the top layer of the brush and just touching leaves in the trees with brilliant highlights and creating deep shadows underneath. It’s part of what I think of when I think of summer.
Like the rope swing, how did we kids live through our childhoods jumping into a deep pool of water in a creek off in the woods? For me, unless the water smelled really bad or it was filled with something I didn’t want to touch, I was in it. Water is irresistible to me—if there is water, I at least have my feet in it, if that’s at all possible, and even when it rains I’m out in it for a bit, or standing in the gutter along the street in front of my house letting the rain water run over my feet. I think most kids are like that, and while there are dangers in places like swimming holes, avoiding dangers is not always the best way to deal with them. Instead, learning how to safely use the swimming hole can help teach a life lesson about observation, caution, and when to let go and enjoy things that aren’t manufactured for our use. That’s one of the joys, and lessons, of nature.
There’s still some of summer left, so jump in and have a splash! And I hope to see you this Friday and Saturday during Rock the Quarry in my exhibit “Sun Shadow Ice & Snow: Seasons of the Panhandle Trail”.
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