Smoke on the Water (and the paintings it inspired)

29 August, 2021 3 comments Leave a comment

Photo, Lake of the Woods, by Karen Richardson

Earlier this month, my husband and I camped in our trailer while visiting family at Lake of the Woods for ten beautiful days.

Photo Lake of the Woods Islands by Karen Richardson

The weather was fine and hot, but every day was hazy or overcast due to smoke from forest fires burning in northern Ontario and western Canada.

Some days we could smell the smoke, even though the fires were not in our region.

Photo Lake of the Woods Islands by Karen Richardson

I thought that photography would be challenging, but the haze actually provided some interesting atmospheric effects in my photos of islands in the lake.

While staying at Lake of the Woods, I was able to work on four small paintings inspired by 'smoky' photos such as those shown here.

Karen Richardson working in her mobile art studio

Each day, I set up a tiny 'mobile studio' at the dinette in our trailer, to work on these paintings for an hour or two in the morning.

There was just enough room to work on small format paintings (8 x 8" or 10 x 10"). I protected the upholstery from paint splashes with plastic tablecloths.

Karen Richardson's mobile studio setup

When traveling, I take minimal painting supplies with me: a small paint palette with lid, a fistful of brushes, a few tubes of paint in primary colours, cloth rags, and pre-cut watercolour paper taped to foam core supports. 

I mixed up a big batch of blue paint in a tin camping mug, used my metal mixing bowls to rinse brushes, and relied on a tub of rolled oats to support my boards at the right angle. I'm a big believer in 'making do' with equipment on hand when we go camping.

The four new paintings are pictured here, along with their titles and 'stories'.

Click on each image to see the painting in its frame, art value, and availability.


Beyond Blue Water, varnished watercolour on 8 x 8" panel.

Under the glow of a million stars and a full moon, a cluster of venerable pines guards the rocky shore of a northern lake, while the evening mist approaches.



Blue Bliss, varnished watercolour on 10 x 10" panel.

Bathed in the gentle glow of moon and stars, weathered rocks and trees survey the surrounding lake from a cluster of islands. What a blissful place this would be to spend the seasons.


Blue Beckons, varnished watercolour on 8 x 8" panel.

As mist floats in on a soft breeze on this northern lake, the glow of the moon and stars reflects off the water. Rocky points, laden with clusters of pine trees, appear to float in the mist.



Just the Stars for Company, varnished watercolour on 8 x 8" panel.

On a quiet summer night on a still northern lake, the landscape is reduced to its simplest forms. A lone pine tree perches atop a rocky island, enveloped in a gentle mist, with just the stars for company.


I have a treasure trove of more photos of Lake of the Woods islands, ready to inspire more new paintings. Stay tuned!

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  1. June Cook August 31, 2021

    I love your work and the lessons and ideas you give.Northern Ontario has such beautiful scenes to paint.

  2. Vikki MacPherson August 31, 2021

    Beautiful paintings Karen. With the minimal colour palette they are very calming and serene.

  3. Richard Gauder August 31, 2021

    I love the portable art studio. Like a chef that can cook on any type of stove, you can paint anywhere! And look at the wonderful things you create. Well done.