New Works: Timeless Trees and Northern Lakes

25 April, 2022 1 comments Leave a comment

March was a quiet and intense time for me and I was able to finish five new paintings. I continue to express my admiration for northern lakes and forests in my artwork, inspired by past trips to Lake Superior and Lake of the Woods in northwestern Ontario.

Photo by Karen Richardson

Sometimes it takes a while for painting ideas to digest and mature, rather like fine wine. In the case of these first two paintings, the journey from inspiration to finished artwork took six years.

The story began in 2016, when I spotted this pine tree with its top lopped off by a wind storm.

At the time, we were travelling between Sioux Narrows and Kenora, near Lake of the Woods. Traffic had stopped on the highway, conveniently within view of this distinctive tree.

The white pine reminded me of a bonsai, carefully groomed into an artful shape. I knew its quirky branches would make a marvellous painting subject, so I took this quick snapshot from our truck.

Sketch by Karen Richardson That same month, we saw bald eagles quite often during our boat cruises on Lake of the Woods. The eagles would perch on tall trees, looking for their next meal. I managed to photograph this one way up in a dead pine tree.

Two years later, I used my reference photos to sketch the bonsai pine and bald eagle together. It made an exciting composition.

The tree has a wonderfully asymmetrical structure with flowing limbs, and the exposed branch at the top forms a perfect perch for the eagle.

Then life got in the way and four years passed. Finally, this year I created this small painting from my pencil concept.

The painting is titled The Warriors, (varnished watercolour on 8 x 8 inch panel).

The simple gradation in the sky from vivid to misty blue forms a suitable backdrop for the dark colours of the subject, while giving a sense of energy to the painting.

I was happy with the look of this watercolour study, so I decided to frame it as a finished artwork. Click here for more information about The Warriors.

Then I proceeded to create a larger interpretation of the same subject (four times the size of the first painting). I made the sky slightly more complex with some cloudy streaks running through it. I also added a few distant treetops to show how the white pine towers over the surrounding forest.

Thunderstruck, varnished watercolour on 16 x 16 inch panel, may have taken six years to come to fruition, but I still feel the same thrill looking at it as I did the first time I saw the battle-scarred white pine at Lake of the Woods. Click here for more information about Thunderstruck.


Early One Morning, varnished watercolour on 6 x 12 inch panel, was inspired by the old growth forest towering above the campground at Pukaskwa National Park on Lake Superior.

Pukaskwa Park trees, photos by Karen Richardson

I wanted a gentle, warm mood so I created soft mixtures of peach and bronze using primary colours (Sennelier Red, Magenta, Sennelier Yellow Deep, and Phthalo Blue). 

I used these two reference photos of tree tops I had taken in the Park one evening, and assembled them into an imaginary dawn scene. I love the romantic peace of this time and place. Click here for more information about Early One Morning.

The marvellous Pebble Beach in the town of Marathon on Lake Superior has inspired yet another painting.

This one is Superior Sunbathers, varnished watercolour on 20 x 16 inch panel.

This beach is composed of smooth round stones the size of citrus fruits - from limes to grapefruits. The colours are rich and varied, especially when the stones are wet, and many have interesting stripes or other markings.

Photo of Lake Superior by Karen RichardsonThe scene never looks the same twice, with wind and sunlight affecting the behaviour of the waves and the colours of water and rock.

A few years ago, we were lucky to visit the beach on a calm, sunny morning, and I took dozens of photos from many angles.

Sometimes I had to put my camera almost in the water, viewfinder out of sight, hoping to capture the low point of view I was after.  The photo pictured here is one of those lucky shots.

Stones are one of my favourite painting subjects and it was pure pleasure to depict the beautiful details of this extraordinary place. Stay tuned for more paintings of Pebble Beach.

Click here for more information about Superior Sunbathers.


On the subject of multiple interpretations of a given scene, here is my third painting of this northern lake with dock and red canoe.

This piece is Spirit of the North, varnished watercolour on 18 x 24 inch panel. The first two versions were painted earlier this winter and you can read their story here.

Photo by Pamela WestonThank you to Pamela Weston for permission to use her reference photo (shown here) in the creation of my artwork.

I love to paint scenes that convey an unfolding story, immerse us in the beauty of nature, create a sense of joyful anticipation, hint at a mystery, or capture a precious memory. This scene checks all those boxes.

Click here for more information about Spirit of the North.

Currently, I have five new paintings of northern lake sunsets in progress in my studio and look forward to introducing them to you next month. I call them my 'purple and gold' series...

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  1. Janet Love May 02, 2022

    It is always a gift when you send out your newsletter. The way you describe your work and your process of where you were when you took your reference photos. Thank you so much for sharing your stories.