Earthbound Artist

Articles tagged as 2022 Northern Ontario Trip (view all)

Autumn Adventures in Muskoka

28 December, 2022 2 comments Leave a comment

Karen Richardson's Airstream

Throughout this past spring, summer, and fall, my husband and I enjoyed seven camping excursions in Ontario in our Airstream. We were out for a total of eighty days. 

I wrote about the major trips in previous posts, One Magic Island is Enough (June in Muskoka), My Fabulous Frog Encounter (June in Point Pelee), and Visiting Northern Vistas (August in Manitoulin, Lake Superior, and Lake of the Woods).

North Channel, Lake Huron, photo by Karen Richardson

I was able to paint and gather extensive inspiration for new artwork, while enjoying hiking and boating in these beautiful regions.

We concluded the camping season with a ten-day stay just west of Algonquin Park. Our timing was perfect, and we witnessed some of the loveliest fall foliage we have seen in years.

The weather was sunny and mild for most of our stay, and we hiked almost every day as the fall colours came to full glory around us. It was a truly magical time and now I have enough fall foliage photos for decades of paintings!

Buck Lake, photo by Karen Richardson

It was impossible to whittle down my best shots to just a handful for this post, so I made a video slideshow instead.

Click on the image below to view a glorious autumn in Muskoka, seen through an artist's eye (3-minute video). Enjoy!


Thank you to my friend Roger who took the photo of me beside the Oxtongue River, shown on the title page of the slideshow.

Where is your favourite place to see fall colours? If you have comments you wish to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post. 

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to see more painting stories, travel tales, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming painting classes and exhibitions.


Visiting Northern Vistas

23 October, 2022 3 comments Leave a comment

Near Killarney, photo by Karen Richardson

Our longest camping trip this summer was a four-week exploration of northwestern Ontario: Manitoulin Island, the North Channel, Lake Superior, and Lake of the Woods. During this trip I amassed many wonderful reference photos to inspire future paintings.

As I was reviewing the best of the best photographs to share with you, it struck me that my final selections, the ones that truly captured the sense of place, were stretched panoramas. The lakes and skies up north are so vast and wide, it's hard to take in all the beauty on display.

Sandhill Cranes on Manitoulin Island, photo by Karen Richardson

We spent the first week camping on Manitoulin Island, which is a very laid back place with a rural vibe and lots of historic barns. These Sandhill Cranes crossed a country road just as we approached in our truck. We see cranes like these every summer we travel in the north.

Karen Richardson and friends

My husband and I (back) were accompanied by our long-time friends Carolyn and Roger (front), pictured here at a lookout on the famous Cup and Saucer Trail. We had no trouble finding daily excursions like this to keep active and search out beautiful scenery.

North Channel, photo by Karen Richardson

Shown above is a view of the North Channel near our Manitoulin Island campground, with the Ontario mainland in the distance. I love the patterns the wind and currents make on the intensely blue water.

North Channel point, photo by Karen Richardson

Hoping for more photographic opportunities, we took a day cruise from Little Current harbour to the village of Killarney and back. Shown above is one of many 'paint-able' rocky points we cruised by. This type of rock reminds me of Georgian Bay, which is not surprising since the North Channel leads into Georgian Bay.

Killarney cottage, photo by Karen Richardson

At Killarney, we saw many lovely summer homes on the rocky shore, but this humble cottage embodies that old-time Georgian Bay nostalgia.

North Channel sunshine, photo by Karen Richardson

As we cruised back to Little Current that afternoon, the sun came out and sprinkled diamonds on the waters of the North Channel, while a thunder cloud poured rain on Manitoulin.

Aguasabon Falls and Gorge, photo by Karen Richardson

After a very relaxing week on the Island, we journeyed north-westward to Lake Superior, camping at Wawa and then stopping at Terrace Bay to show our friends Aguasabon Falls and Gorge. There is a generous parking area, large enough to turn around and park our travel trailers, and a very short boardwalk hike that took us to this stunning view.

In the words of the town, "With a beautiful ferocity in the spring and a serene grace in the summer and fall, this spectacular 100 foot waterfall cascades into the Aguasabon Gorge—flowing along a 2.6 billion year old rock face." If your travels take you through Terrace Bay, watch for the signs to the Gorge and take a look at this natural wonder.

Lake Superior Archipelago at Red Rock, photo by Karen Richardson

We camped for several days at Nipigon to attend the Live from the Rock Folk Festival, an annual music and arts festival held on the shore of Lake Superior in Red Rock. While there, we hiked up to the lookout over Nipigon Bay to view the islands of the Lake Superior Archipelago. The hilly shapes remind me of paintings by the Group of Seven. I love the grace and power of this place.

Lake of the Woods, photo by Karen Richardson

While our friends departed to spend time with family, my husband and I headed for Lake of the Woods, pictured above. We spent a glorious week there, visiting family and enjoying lakeside living. The weather was favourable and we spent an entire afternoon boating through a tiny section of the lake, which is an enormous body of water - 137 km long and 91 km wide at its widest point.

Lake of the Woods, photo by Karen Richardson

Lake of the Woods has a shoreline of just over 100,000 km if you count the shoreline of its many islands as well as the mainland. That's more than Lake Superior! There are 14,522 islands in Lake of the Woods.

And gosh, do I love painting those islands and points with their iconic twisted pines! Our visits to this lake have inspired dozens of paintings.

As we journeyed homeward, we made a point to camp a few nights at Marathon so I could visit my favourite Pebble Beach.

Pebble Beach Marathon, photo by Karen Richardson

As is often the case, the weather was cool and foggy while we were there. I have only seen this beach once on a calm sunny day, and the rest of the time conditions have been misty or raining. But the mist adds a sense of hushed solitude that makes for very compelling paintings, and also makes the beach stones look more colourful than they do when dry. I like this shot above of my husband bending for a closer look. I had to lay flat on the stones to get the shooting angle I wanted.

Flat Rock Beach Marathon, photo by Karen Richardson

While in town, we heard about a flat rock beach and searched it out. We were amazed at the great slabs of rock we found there along the Lake Superior shore. It felt very other-worldly.

Flat Rock Beach, Marathon, photo by Karen Richardson

Now that we know where this place is, I'll have TWO beaches to stop at every time we travel by Marathon. Thank goodness for a patient husband! I would love to see this landscape in sunshine, when the lake looks sapphire blue.

By the time we reached our home base in Lindsay, my husband and I had travelled 5,000 km on this month-long adventure. We came back with happy memories of fun times, a renewed appreciation of this remarkable province, and so much painting inspiration, I hardly knew where to begin!

Did you enjoy these highlights of Karen's camping trip? If you have comments you wish to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post. 

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to see more painting stories, travel tales, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming exhibitions.

New Works: Mist and Moonlight

20 September, 2022 3 comments Leave a comment

Karen Richardson in her mobile art studio

Usually when we travel in the Airstream I fit in a painting day once a week or so, just for the joy of it.

The rest of my time is spent living the simple life with my husband: hiking, kayaking, making healthy meals, and slowly exploring the region in which we find ourselves.

Varnished watercolours by Karen Richardson

This past summer, with steady sales of my artwork continuing in the galleries back home, I was keen to paint more frequently.

I found the dinette in our trailer (pictured above) to be the perfect spot to set up a simple painting space for a few hours at a time.

Varnished watercolours by Karen Richardson

By the time we got home and I returned to the art studio, I was able to mount and frame a half dozen new works (pictured here).

In these paintings, I have continued to focus on misty northern lakes, bringing more imaginary places to life, venturing into a moonlit night scene, and branching off (pun intended) into a pile of colourful maple leaves.

This pair of blue lake scenes began as simple blue graded washes for the sky and a few horizontal streaks of blue for the water ripples. It took 3 or 4 layers of paint to build up the colour density I was after. I left large blank white areas in the middle to add some islands and reflections later.

Listen to the Silence, varnished watercolour on 14 x 11 inch panel.

I invented the overlapping blue hills for the background, wetting the bottom edges with clear water to simulate mist.

When that was dry, I painted an imaginary island, again with mist cloaking the shoreline, and a canoe seen coming towards the viewer.

I added a soft reflection under the island so it would not draw the viewer's eye away from the canoe.

Click here for more information about Listen to the Silence.

The Answer Will Come, varnished watercolour on 14 x 11 inch panel.

I knew I wanted an interesting island centred in this piece so I looked through my treasure trove of Lake of the Woods photos. (We visit family there most summers.)

Photo Lake of the Woods by Karen Richardson

This is the reference I chose, adding some hefty rocks to the front of 'my' island. Again, I added water when painting the bottom of the island, to simulate a foggy shoreline.

The water ripples in the foreground needed more visual interest, so I imagined some smooth underwater stones and painted the shadowy spaces in between them. Then I added a few above-water rocks to lead the viewer's eye between the foreground and the big island. Lastly, I painted in a hazy reverse image for the island reflection.

Click here for more details about The Answer Will Come.

Reunion, varnished watercolour on 10 x 10 inch panel.

One of my painting buddies goes on an annual canoe trip with a group of women friends, and she was kind enough to supply me with several dozen photos of canoes taken at various places during her trips.

These are a great resource whenever I want to add a canoe into an imaginary scene.

Photo Lake Traverse by Averill Ambrose For this painting, I used her reference photo (shown here) for the foreground and invented a couple of islands to make a more interesting scene. I changed the canoe colours and decided to make the season autumn, so the trees would complement the canoes.

Click here for more information about Reunion.

Misty Beginnings, varnished watercolour on 10 x 10 inch panel.

This painting was inspired by a quick photo I took out of our truck window one summer as we were driving along Hwy 17 north of Lake Superior.

Photo by Karen Richardson

I thought this little point of land on the edge of an island looked interesting.

I imagined a new scene roughly based on the photo, adding more mist, a canoe, more prominent rocks, and individual trees on the point.

Click here for more information about Misty Beginnings.

Some Enchanted Evening, varnished watercolour on 16 x 12 inch panel.

This was an experimental piece, meaning I had no idea if it would be successful or not. I knew I wanted a night scene with lots of deep blues and black, with a yellow full moon and its reflection across the water.

I imagined a slight breeze rippling the water and how the resulting reflections would behave.  I figured the rocks would have some warm tones, coming from moonlight.

I breathed a big sigh of relief when this painting turned out so well.

Click here for more information about Some Enchanted Evening.

Maple Flooring, varnished watercolour on 11 x 14 inch panel.

I took this reference photo decades ago while walking in the woods and have painted from it twice.

Photo by Karen Richardson

It is a simple scene, but that red maple leaf is so wonderfully symbolic of Canada, and it was fun to work with bright colours.

Click here for more information about Maple Flooring.

As cooler weather arrives, I feel my inner energy rising. It's time to get the garden trimmed back and close out the growing season. I look forward to having lots of studio time this fall and winter to create more new paintings, and then share with you the stories behind them.

Which painting is your favourite? If you have comments you wish to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post. 

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to see more painting stories, travel tales, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming exhibitions.


One Magic Island is Enough

17 July, 2022 1 comment Leave a comment

Sand Lake - photo by Karen Richardson

My husband and I love to go camping spring, summer, and fall. Most of my inspiration for paintings of northern scenery and pristine lakes comes from these trips.

Earlier this summer, we camped for a week at Sand Lake near Kearney, in the Muskoka region of Ontario. While there, I got to study this magical island just off shore. It's just one wee island, but I know it will inspire a multitude of paintings.

Edgewater Park Lodge, photo by Karen Richardson

We discovered this pretty little lake in March when we stayed at Edgewater Park Lodge to do some snowmobiling, and decided we should return to see it in the summertime. You can read about our winter adventure here.

Sand Lake - photo by Karen Richardson

The Lodge had a half dozen serviced camping sites adjacent to their cabins, so we reserved a spot for a week in June and brought our travel trailer.

Sand Lake, photo by Karen Richardson

This is the view of the little island from the shoreline of Edgewater Park.

The island looks small and unassuming from this angle, but I suspected from seeing it last winter that the island might be more impressive from other viewpoints.

These Canada geese swam by as I was taking photos from the shore.

They might be just the thing a future painting could use in the foreground.

Sand Lake, photo by Karen Richardson

Luckily, we had our kayaks with us, and on the first calm day of our visit, we went for a paddle along the shore and over to the island.

I had my IPhone on board in a waterproof case so I could take pictures.

Sand Lake - photo by Karen Richardson

My husband, paddling in his kayak ahead of me, made for a good model in some of my photos, helping to show the scale of the landscape. The island looks quite wide from this angle.

Sand Lake - photo by Karen Richardson

As we circumnavigated the island, it was amazing to see how its appearance changed when viewed from different directions, and depending on whether the sun was shining or hidden by a cloud.

The lake water changed its appearance also. Sometimes it was a pale blue, sometimes a deeper blue, and other times the water was so clear we could see the sandy bottom.

Sand Lake - photo by Karen Richardson

There were quite a few different types of evergreens on the island and they made ever-changing groupings as we paddled by.

I particularly like the dynamic cloud and tree reflections in this scene. They would be challenging to paint but worth it.  I think a large scale painting would do this scene justice.

Sand Lake - photo by Karen Richardson

Here are more intriguing cloud and tree reflections. The slanting lines of the waves really catch my eye in this photo.

Sand Lake - photo by Karen Richardson

Parts of the shoreline were rock, which is one of my favourite subjects. The warm tones of the stone contrast nicely with the cooler hues of lake, sky, and trees.

Sand Lake - photo by Karen Richardson

Here are some lovely slabs of rock counterbalanced with a few interesting trees and rustic sheds. I am certain these rocky shorelines and their reflections will make their way into some northern lake paintings one day.

These are just a sampling of the many photos I took of this little island. Each of them is a seed with potential to grow into beautiful artwork one day. Nature is all around us, ready to inspire dozens of paintings. But sometimes, one magic island is enough.

Which scene is your favourite? If you have comments you wish to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post. 

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to see more painting stories, travel tales, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming exhibitions.