Earthbound Artist

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The Superior Paintings Begin

20 November, 2017 1 comment Leave a comment

In my previous post, I told the story of our camping trip to Lake Superior this summer. Although I am in the midst of teaching watercolour techniques to over 50 students this fall, I have carved out some private painting time in my studio, inspired by my Lake Superior trip photos.

Clarity, watercolour 28 x 11" by Karen Richardson

The painting above, Clarity (watercolour, 28 x 11"), was the first major work inspired by this trip. I used several experimental techniques and am excited with the result. The scene depicts a view from the coastal trail near Rossport, on the north shore of Lake Superior. The water is so clear, it becomes almost impossible to tell if rocks are above or below the surface. I'll let you decide.

I made a short time lapse video, showing how this painting grew from start to finish. Click on the arrow below to view:

Click here to see more information about Clarity.

For my second Lake Superior painting, Time to Head South (watercolour 16 x 20") shown below, I was able to combine the activities of teaching and producing a major piece of artwork. I began by drawing the two Monarch butterflies and the autumn leaf in pencil on my watercolour paper. Then I drew in the stone shapes as a background.

Time to Head South, watercolour 16 x 20" by Karen Richardson

During three of my one-day Pebbles 1-2-3 beginner workshops, I used this composition as my demonstration painting. I shaded and coloured the stones, working around the butterfly and leaf shapes. I used my Lake Superior trip photos as inspiration for the specific stone markings.

As with all of my paintings, every colour in the painting was mixed from primary red, blue, and yellow paints. Once the background was finished, after the third workshop, I painted the Monarchs and leaf.

The title, Time to Head South, refers to the annual fall migration of Monarchs, to their winter habitat in the mountains of Mexico. I hope we see lots of their descendants here in Ontario next summer.

Click here to see more information about Time to Head South.

These paintings are just the beginning of my Superior collection. I look forward to sharing more of them with you.

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Exploring Lake Superior - At Last

30 September, 2017 4 comments Leave a comment

Rossport Islands in Lake Superior

Over the years, our travels on the trans-Canada highway have taken us past the north shore of Lake Superior countless times. We always seemed to be in a hurry to get out to the western provinces to visit family, or to return to our home in central Ontario. We never took the time to stay in this wild and beautiful region of northern Ontario.

This summer, we finally planned a two-week camping trip to explore Rossport and Wawa on Lake Superior. The Lake Superior view above is from Nicol Island at Rossport.

Karen Richardson kayaking on Brownlee Lake, east of Lake Superior, Ontario

On the way there, we enjoyed several days in a private campground on Brownlee Lake (east of Lake Superior), which we were able to explore fully by kayak. That's me in the photo above.

Waterlily leaves and reflections on Brownlee Lake, Ontario

Water Lily on Brownlee Lake, Ontario

The leaves of the waterlily plants had started to change colour when we were there in August. These photos will make great painting subjects.

Mushroom on the shore of Brownlee Lake, Ontario

As we explored the perimeter of Brownlee Lake, we found many colourful mushrooms had recently emerged. This one reminds me of a fairy toadstool.

Karen Richardson in Rainbow Falls Provincial Park

High Falls, near Wawa, Ontario

Our hikes in the region took us to many scenic waterfalls. I am pictured above in Rainbow Falls Provincial Park, east of Rossport. The second photo is High Falls, which is accessible via a commercial wild blueberry farm near Wawa.

Rock point, Rainbow Falls Provincial Park at Rossport.

The most scenic part of our holiday was spent at Rainbow Falls Provincial Park (Rossport), which has a campground right beside the beach. The park's rocky point pictured above is the subject of a sold-out watercolour workshop I am teaching in my Lindsay studio this fall.

Rossport Coastal Trail, Lake Superior

The view above is from the Rossport Coastal Trail on Lake Superior. The water is very cold and clear, so you can see the colourful stones on the lake bed. I am working on a stunning new painting, inspired by this scene.

Karen Richardson's travelling and camping rig

The photo above shows our truck, trailer, kayaks, and dining tent set up in Rainbow Falls Provincial Park, just steps from Lake Superior. This park provides water and electrical hookups. We have a furnace, air conditioner, hot water heater, fridge, stove, oven, three-piece bathroom, and a queen-sized bed. All the comforts of home. That's why people often call the RV lifestyle 'glamping', short for glamorous camping. (What, you pictured me in a tent, sleeping on the ground? Those years are long gone!)

Waves and Sand Beach, Lake Superior

Lake Superior is the largest body of fresh water on earth, with a surface area of over 82,000 square km, and over 4,000 km of shoreline. One beach we visited near Wawa had lovely white sand, clear aquamarine water, and surf (shown above), just like in the Caribbean.

Colourful stones on a Lake Superior Beach

The beach at Rainbow Falls park was mostly smooth stones and pebbles, like the ones pictured above. I took over 100 'incredible pebble' photos. The colours and patterns within the stones are remarkably beautiful and varied.

 Sunset and moonrise, Lake Superior

All too soon, it was time to head home. The photo above shows the moon at sunset over Lake Superior, with a solitary person out for a stroll. The headlands in the distance are the Rossport Islands.

My usual habit, after we get home from a trip, is to print just the photos I think I will use for future painting references. After our Lake Superior trip, I printed almost 400 photos! I'll be very busy this winter making 'Superior art'.

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

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Perfect Prince Edward Island

03 July, 2017 0 comments Leave a comment

The last time we visited PEI was 20 years ago, when we were on a motorcycling holiday. This spring, as the finale of a two-month, 8,000 km journey, we spent 11 days there. We camped in our trailer, along with our good friends in their trailer. Below is a photo of me, John, Carolyn, and Roger at Greenwich Dunes.

Karen Richardson with friends, PEI

I had forgotten how stunningly beautiful PEI is, with it's white or red beaches and cliffs, and lush, green farm fields blanketing gently rolling hills. The photos below are taken near Cavendish, on the north coast of the Island.

Cliffs near Cavendish, PEI

Red cliffs near Cavendish, PEI

We saw cormorants nesting there.

Cormorants near Cavendish, PEI

One day we hiked into Greenwich Dunes National Park and I took lots of photos of the beach, waves, and dunes. It was a very peaceful place.

Greenwich Dunes National Park, PEI

We planned our visit to PEI so we could attend the 150th Canada Day celebrations in Charlottetown, the birthplace of Canadian confederation. It is a charming, prosperous town, with lots of well-crafted historic architecture, as shown in the home and commercial building below.

Charlottetown historic house, PEI

Downtown Charlottetown, PEI

Part of the Canada 150 celebration was a Tall Ships festival, with about eight sailing ships on display at the harbour. We toured four ships, including this impressive 4-masted sailing vessel called the Union, from the Peruvian Navy.

Union, from Peru, in Charlottetown PEI

On Canada Day weekend, Charlottetown hosted the finals of a national lumberjack competition, free music concerts, and fireworks in the park near the harbour. We wore our Canada T-shirts and hats and really enjoyed the festivities. We are so proud to live in this amazing country, and grateful that we are able to travel to many of its uniquely beautiful parts.

Tourist season officially started July 1 and the beaches were getting noticeably busier, as shown below. I'm glad we got to experience the Maritimes in the 'off' season. It was time to say good-bye to PEI and start the drive back to our homes in Ontario. 

Cavendish beach, PEI

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Camping in Beautiful Nova Scotia

24 June, 2017 0 comments Leave a comment

Seaside Campground, Nova Scotia

During our two-month RV tour of eastern Canada, we allocated three weeks for Nova Scotia, because there is so much to see and do there, even though our visit was before 'tourist season'.

Two of the campgrounds we stayed in were beside water. The photo above shows our Earthbound travel trailer and truck parked with a view of the ocean. We were near New Glasgow, in a bay off of the Northumberland Strait (the body of water between Nova Scotia and PEI).

Another lovely spot was Rayport Campground in Martin's River, near Mahone Bay. Our campsites backed onto a scenic river, and I was visited by some hungry ducks in the photo below. I had nothing to feed them, but they nibbled on my fingers anyway.

Karen Richardson at Rayport Campground, Nova Scotia

Historic architecture is everywhere in Nova Scotia. Popular places like Halifax, Mahone Bay, and Lunenburg afforded many architectural photo-ops, like the three pictured below.

Jelly Bean Houses in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Mahone Bay House, Nova Scotia

Historic Building and Carriage in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

We spent a week in Halifax and were busy every day touring museums, eating in great restaurants, and walking our feet off, up and down those hilly streets. We visited the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, Halifax Citadel, and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, to name a few highlights. The Harbour Hopper amphibious tour, the Public Gardens, the Halifax Seaport Farmer's Market, and the Alexander Keith's Brewery historic tour were excellent too.

The Annapolis Valley, on the Fundy shore, is very fertile, with many prosperous farms, orchards, and vineyards. I took this photo from a lookoff above the valley, north of Grand Pre.

Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia

While we were visiting Lunenburg one day, we noticed a large schooner tied up at the dock. Closer examination revealed her identity: Bluenose II! We watched her cast off on a voyage to Boston to attend a Tall Ships festival there. She has been totally rebuilt and looks brand new. What a gorgeous piece of Canadian history (pictured on the Canadian dime). I took this photo below as she motored out of the harbour. I wrote an article about Bluenose II when we visited Nova Scotia in 2012. It is titled 'Fastest Sailing Ship in the World' and you can read it here.

Bluenose II Schooner in Lunenburg Harbour, Nova Scotia

I got a few great photos of fishing boats too. Pictured below are some from Blue Rocks (near Lunenburg), and from Digby.

Fishing Boat harboured at Blue Rocks, Nova Scotia

Fishing fleet at Digby, Nova Scotia

One day we hiked into Kejimkujik National Park Seaside which is near the southern tip of Nova Scotia. The seashore there is pristine white sand with huge boulder outcroppings, a turquoise sea, and I was in heaven. We saw cormorants and seals out on the little islands, but it was the patterned rocks along the shore that excited me. Shown below are just two of the hundred photos I took that afternoon. I could produce enough artwork for a solo show, just from this one beach!

Kejimkujik National Park Seaside, Nova Scotia 

 Kejimkujik National Park Seaside, Nova Scotia

Since it was spring, everywhere we drove this holiday, we saw gorgeous lupins blooming in roadside ditches. I harvested a few seeds and will plant them in my garden at home, to remind me of our holiday in this lovely province.

Wild Lupins, Nova Scotia

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Top Five Must-Have's For Travel Fun

31 May, 2017 0 comments Leave a comment

Hopewell Rocks, New Brunswick

This spring, we explored Canada's eastern provinces on a two month journey, traveling 8,000 km from Ontario through Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.

This article is the first travel story from this trip, and the photos below show the top five things that, to me, make holidays memorable.

1. The Company of Good Folk

This was our first lengthy RV trip with others - friends who brought their trailers too. Our group is pictured below, left to right, John and Karen, Sheri and Al with their dog Jack, and Carolyn and Roger. We have known these friends for many decades, get along well, and we had a wonderful time exploring the sights together. Sheri and Al spent the first two weeks with us, while Carolyn and Roger stayed with us for the entire two months. We also met some lovely strangers along the way, fellow RVers or local folk, who shared their stories with us. We learn much from others, when we take time to listen.

Karen Richardson with husband and friends in New Brunswick, Canada

2. Interesting Architecture

Wherever our trips take us, we love to discover unusual or historic buildings. In the town of Sherbrooke, in the scenic eastern townships of Quebec, we had a guided walking tour of 14 murals. These are some of the most outstanding and realistic murals we have seen. A few are pictured below.

Heart, Culture and Education Mural, Sherbrooke, 2011, representing 100+ regional authors

Tradition and Prevention Mural, Sherbrooke, 2007, honouring firemen and policemen

Canada Games 2013 Mural, Sherbrooke, made by 200 local and national artists

Detail of Canada Games 2013 Mural, Sherbrooke

3. Wild Places of Rock and Water

Scenery that demonstrates the forces of Nature excites and rejuvenates me, and provides inspiration for most of my paintings. New Brunswick is exceptionally beautiful and two of its natural wonders are shown below. Grand Falls was thundering with spring runoff when we visited. These two photos hint at the magnificence of the Saint John River flowing into the Gorge.

Saint John River at Grand Falls, New Brunswick

Saint John River gorge at Grand Falls, New Brunswick

We visited Hopewell Rocks on the Bay of Fundy at two separate times, so we could explore the flowerpot islands and shore features at low tide, and then see the islands at high tide. They truly are impressive formations, as the following photos attest. The first one shows John and I beside a flowerpot island.

John and Karen Richardson at Hopewell Rocks, New Brunswick

Hopewell Rocks, New Brunswick

Hopewell Rocks, New Brunswick

And below is the same scene at high tide. The seawater in the Bay of Fundy looks like chocolate milk, due to sandstone sediment.

Hopewell Rocks, New Brunswick

4. Great Local Cuisine

We like to sample the regional food of the places we explore on holiday. So of course we had to have a lobster dinner feast, complete with fresh fiddle (fern) heads, while in New Brunswick. Yum!

Fresh Lobster Dinner in New Brunswick

5. Stones I Can Bring Home

I was thrilled to find lots of colourful beach stones to bring home as souvenirs and painting subjects, from Maritime beaches. These ones below are from near Cape Enrage, New Brunswick.

Beach pebbles from New Brunswick

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Our Baffin Island Snowmobile Adventure

19 April, 2017 10 comments Leave a comment

Richardson party in Iqualuit on Baffin Island

To celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary, John and I, with friends Rick and Nancy, embarked on a 3-day guided snowmobile adventure on Baffin Island, in Canada's far north. Our trip was on Easter weekend, to take advantage of the long hours of daylight and milder spring temperatures.

Iqualuit Baffin Island

We flew via First Air on a Friday morning, from Ottawa to Iqualuit, the capital of the territory of Nunavut. After a 3-hour flight, this was our first view of the town from our airplane. We stayed at the big brown building at the top of the photo above.

John and Karen Richardson in Iqualuit Baffin Island

Our guide from Arctic Kingdom picked us up at the airport, and we collected our snowmobiles. John and I are pictured above on our Arctic Kingdom Polar Expedition Grand Touring Skidoo.

Richardson party on Baffin Island

We all went on a short test ride on the sea ice. The photo above shows John and I beside our Skidoo, with our friends in the background. Rick and Nancy each drove a Skidoo.

Sled dogs and Fuel tanks Baffin Island

We saw lots of dogsled teams tied up near the shore. In the background are fuel storage tanks, that are refilled every summer from tanker ships, to provide fuel for the town of Iqualuit all year.

Frobisher Bay, Baffin Island

After an excellent dinner and comfortable overnight stay at the Frobisher Inn, we set off early Saturday morning across the sea ice of Frobisher Bay (shown above). This 20 km crossing took us over tortuous 2-meter pressure ridges near Iqualuit, then over smoother sea ice to the far shore of the Bay. 

Baffin Island trip equipment

Our destination was the tiny village of Kimmirut on the other side of a large peninsula on Baffin Island, about 130 km away. The photo above shows the two traditional qamutik (pronounced KAMmatick) expedition sleds made of wood and twine, and five snowmobiles, that made the journey. We had to bring all our gas, personal luggage, safety equipment, camp stove, and food with us.

Baffin Island snowmobile trail

We followed tundra trails through more than 100 km of Katannilik Territorial Park, and along the Soper River valley. We enjoyed sunshine and blue sky all day, surrounded by glaciated mountains and pure white snow. The trail was busier than we had expected, and we saw about 50 snowmobiles that day, because there was a snowmobile race along the route we were taking.

 Baffin Island trail hut

Shelter cabins, like the one pictured above, were provided at intervals along the route to Kimmirut. Travelers use them to get out of the wind for a lunch break or even to sleep in overnight. The huts are very plain, with one window, one door, a chimney vent, and three raised platforms inside. Visitors have to provide their own heat source, such as a camp stove.

Baffin Island guide making tea

The photo above shows the inside of the cabin where we stopped for lunch. This is Wayne Broomfield, our unflappable, capable guide, boiling water and heating soup on a camp stove. We enjoyed homemade vegetable beef soup and biscuits, hot chocolate, and ham, cheddar, and lettuce wrap sandwiches for lunch. Delicious! Wayne grew up in northern Labrador and still spends time there. In addition to working as an expedition guide on Baffin Island, he is a professional photographer. 

Baffin Island guide Malaya

After lunch we prepared for a steep descent down a mountain pass. We left the second qamutik full of gas cans beside the trail, hidden behind a rocky ridge. Malaya Qaunirq Chapman, our guide's assistant, is shown in the photo above, sans qamutik. She was born in the Iqualuit area, spent several years in Los Angeles, and returned to live in the north. She was fully bilingual and a delightful addition to our group.

Malaya on Baffin Island

The photo above shows Malaya in full riding attire, Baffin Island style (i.e. parka and goggles rather than snowmobile suit and helmet).

Baffin Island Willow Trees

We passed through the only 'forest' on Baffin Island – the Giant Willow Tree Forest. The trees reach 3 meters (10 feet) in height, although the ones we saw looked to be about 1 meter tall above the snow.

Kimik Coop in Kimmirut, Baffin Island

We reached Kimmirut by late afternoon and got settled in our rooms above the Kimik Co-op store.

View from Kimmirut, Baffin Island

This photo is our view of the harbour from the dining room above the Co-op. The tide is out, so the sea ice has subsided beside the iconic peninsula in the harbour.

Dinner in Kimmirut, Baffin Island

We were served a wonderful dinner - homemade buns, shepherd's pie and poutine with cheese AND bacon. Good job we all had worked up a good appetite that day.

Polar bear skin, Baffin Island

After dinner we walked around the village and visited the local museum to see their collection of traditional artifacts, tools, and clothing. We also saw this polar bear hide beside a house.

Friends on Baffin Island

After hot showers and a good sleep, we embarked on our return journey on Sunday morning. The day was windy with some haze, but it was interesting to see the scenery under different weather conditions. The photo above shows our friends Rick and Nancy with our guide Wayne.

Arctic sun, Baffin Island

As the day progressed, the wind increased and visibility decreased, but Wayne guided us confidently through the route back to Iqualuit. We wore our sunglasses the whole trip, because the Arctic spring sun is very strong and can cause snow blindness.

Waterfall, Baffin Island

We stopped to see this huge frozen waterfall on the Soper River. It was the same gorgeous aquamarine colour you see in glacier crevasses.

Whiteout, Baffin Island

Our guide, Wayne, took the photo above. John and I are on the snowmobile on the left. Behind us are Malaya and three local women who joined our group when the weather worsened.

Whiteout, Baffin Island

Wayne took this picture above. Rick and Nancy are in front, with John and I behind them. You could not tell where the land ended and the sky began - everything was white. But Wayne got us through and back to our hotel by late afternoon. Three of us ended up with a bit of frostbite on our necks, where the wind sneaked in between our jackets and helmets. Gotta have battle scars, right?

Arctic Kingdom house, Baffin Island

We returned our snowmobiles and qamutiks to the Arctic Kingdom office in Iqualuit (shown above). Afterwards, we had dinner at the Frobisher Inn, and Wayne entertained us with more enthralling tales of his Arctic adventures.

While we dined and talked, several local artisans came through the restaurant, offering their creations for sale. (This is an acceptable practice in the north.) It was wonderful to meet these Inuit folk, and it was a convenient and affordable way to acquire some quality paintings and carvings, as souvenirs of our visit to Baffin Island.

Group photo, Baffin Island

On Monday morning, Wayne picked us up from the Frobisher Inn, to give us a driving tour of town, before we flew back to Ottawa in the early afternoon. Above, we are pictured at the Arctic Kingdom office - John, Nancy, Wayne, Karen, and Rick - in front of four brand new qamutiks.

Iqualuit Baffin Island 

This is one of the residential streets in Iqualuit, above. Wayne told us house prices run in the $300K to $500K range and jobs are very well paid here.

Grocery store in Iqualuit Baffin Island

This is one of their grocery stores, above. Groceries are more expensive here due to freight costs - goods have to be shipped in during summer when the sea ice is out, or flown in during the rest of the year.

Trilingual stop sign in Iqualuit Baffin Island

Stop signs are tri-lingual in Iqualuit.

Tim Hortons in Iqualuit Baffin Island

And, yes, there is a Tim Horton's here too... Now you have no excuse not to go to Baffin Island!

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The Making of 'Moongazer'

14 February, 2017 1 comment Leave a comment

Moongazer, watercolour by Karen Richardson

Recently, I completed this 16 x 12" watercolour titled 'Moongazer' (above). It is an imaginary scene, based on these three reference photos (below). The trees and water are from our travels along the north shore of Lake Superior, and the full moon was seen from my house. The sketched watercolour paper is shown beside the photos.

Moongazer, reference photos and sketch by Karen Richardson   Moongazer, first attempt

The second photo above shows the painting after two layers of sky colours. I didn't like the way the colours were granulating, and I thought the moon should be higher and smaller, so I turned my watercolour paper over and started afresh with new colours.

Moongazer, work in progress by Karen Richardson

Here is the new painting above, with the tree and moon covered in yellow masking fluid, and the first sky layer on.

Moongazer, work in progress by Karen Richardson

This painting was slow to complete, as I had to let each sky layer dry at least 24 hours before applying the next layer. Shown above is the finished sky after six layers. The masking fluid has been removed from the tree, revealing the white paper.

Moongazer, work in progress by Karen Richardson

In the photo above, the first paint layer has been applied to the tree foliage and two layers have been painted on the tree bark. I left some paper bare at the top of each foliage mass, to give the effect of moonlight shining there.

Moongazer, watercolour by Karen Richardson

In this last photo, the tree has received three paint layers. Then I painted the distant hills and lake and let that dry. Finally, I painted the foreground forest in one layer.

This painting has an atmospheric mood that really captivates viewers. I am delighted that it found it's new owner even before I had it mounted and framed.

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The Making of 'February Flow'

08 January, 2017 10 comments Leave a comment

February Flow, watercolour by Karen Richardson

I completed this painting, February Flow, 18 x 24", just before Christmas and I have to say, I am enthralled with it. I don't know if my reasons are just sentimental (the scene is about ten miles from where I grew up), or if they are objective, but I feel like I captured something very special in this piece.

It has a Zen-like quality and looks deceptively simple. The painting is full of contrasts such as light/dark, still/moving, fragile/strong, simple/complex, quiet/noisy, and frozen/liquid. The complementary colour scheme of cool blues and warm browns is a favourite of mine.

Let me share with you some of the earlier stages of this remarkable painting.

I found the subject matter quite by accident. It started with this view of the Petawawa River, near its confluence with the Ottawa River (shown below).

Photo of Petawawa River, taken by Karen Richardson

We were there on a snowmobile trip with friends last February, and stopped briefly on the trail so I could take some photos. The sun was shining on my camera's digital display, and I had my helmet on, so I couldn't see what I was photographing exactly. I just pointed the camera at the river and took the shot. It wasn't until I reviewed my photos at home after the trip, that I noticed the lower left part of the scene. Here it is enlarged (shown below).

Photo of the Petawawa River, taken by Karen Richardson

I knew it would be a great painting subject, and finally last month I got to it. I decided on a fairly large format (18 x 24") to do justice to this scene.

After I drew a detailed sketch onto my watercolour paper, I masked out the sapling and painted in the first shadow layer on the snow, working on wet paper (shown below).

Step 1 of February Flow, watercolour by Karen Richardson

The next day, I re-wet the snow area with clear water and added a second layer to the snow shadows (shown below).

Step 2 of February Flow, watercolour by Karen Richardson 

The next day, I started painting the river. This was the difficult part of the process. I followed my reference photo very carefully, to recreate the shapes and values (lights and darks) so it would look like rapids. Here, the river is about half way complete (shown below).

Step 3 of February Flow, watercolour by Karen Richardson

And here is the stage where the river is pretty well finished. I removed the masking fluid and painted the ice on the sapling (below).

Step 4 of February Flow, watercolour by Karen Richardson

The next day, once the paper was fully dry, I tweaked a few shadows here and there, and darkened some sections of the river to complete the painting (shown below).

 February Flow, watercolour by Karen Richardson

I titled the painting 'February Flow' because I am becoming more aware of how truly precious our fresh water is, how lucky Canadians are to have an abundant flow of clean water in our rivers and lakes, and how important it is that we protect our fresh water resources for future generations.

If you would like to see some framed views of this piece, click here for more details.

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Our Labrador Adventure

23 April, 2016 15 comments Leave a comment

When I look out my windows and see green grass and spring flowers blooming, it's hard to believe just a month ago we were enjoying wintry wilderness scenery in Labrador.

We made the long journey there for some quality snowmobiling, along with our long-time friends Rick and Nancy. The 3,500 km round trip took us along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River past Montreal and Quebec City, to Baie-Comeau. From there, we headed north through the rugged hills of eastern Quebec and finally over the border into Labrador City.

The route along the St. Lawrence included a free ferry across the Saguenay River. Shown below is Nancy with my husband John, standing on the ferry, beside the truck and snowmobile trailer.

Saguenay River Ferry

We had a good view of ice floes on the Saguenay River, where it enters the St. Lawrence.

Ice Fkoes on the Saguenay River

After a long day of travel, including through an evening snowstorm, we stopped for the night at a motel in Baie-Comeau. The next day the skies had cleared and we headed north 585 km on the rugged road to Labrador.

 Quebec Hwy 389 to Labrador City

Ten years ago, the last time we ventured up this road, it was mostly gravel and quite scary. This time, it was mostly paved but still challenging in parts because it is twisty, narrow, very hilly, and sometimes muddy.

Quebec Hwy 389 to Labrador City

 We barely made it up one of the toughest hills, shown above. Despite freezing temperatures, the sunshine had melted the top inch of gravel on the south face, making for poor traction going up. But everybody held their breath and we made it over the top.

We passed by the massive Manic Cinq dam (shown below) and stopped for lunch at the small restaurant/gas station nearby.

Quebec's Manic Cinq Dam

Freezing temperatures, combined with patches of wet gravel, coated the truck and trailer with some very interesting ice formations, especially on the wheel hubs:

Mud icicles   Mud icicles

The ice was hard like concrete inside the wheel wells, but we managed to kick it off so the wheels could move freely. I saw a truck driver using a large sledgehammer to knock the ice off the sides of his flatbed trailer.

Mud icicles

Mud icicles

Late afternoon found us still heading north through the Canadian Shield on drier roads, towards Labrador.

Quebec Hwy 389 to Labrador City

Finally we reached the provincial border and stopped for photos.

Welcome to Labrador

John and I are pictured below.

 Karen and John reach Labrador

Labrador City is only 15 km past the border, and we pulled in about 7 pm. We stayed at the Two Seasons motel. They named it after the only two seasons they have this far north - Winter and Last Winter. Haha.

There was a fair amount of snow in Lab City. Here is the view out of the second story window in our room.

View from our second story window in Labrador City.

We enjoyed three days of snowmobiling in sunshine and temperatures in the minus 20's Celsius, for the most part. The second morning it was minus 44 with the wind chill, so we visited the mall and had a hot lunch at our motel prior to setting out on the trails. Pictured below are Nancy, Rick, and John.

Snowmobiling near Labrador City

Tree cover is more sparse in Labrador than we are used to in Ontario, and this means there is lots of space for trails.

Snowmobile trail near Labrador City

Typically the trails are 20 to 30 feet wide and very smooth.

Wide snowmobile trail near Labrador City

Due to the extreme cold of Labrador winters, the snowmobile clubs have built warm up huts at regular intervals along the trails. They were a welcome sight for sure. One is pictured below.

 Warm up hut on snowmobile trail near Labrador City.

The huts are outfitted inside with benches to sit on as well as a wood stove, and free wood, kindling, kerosene, and matches to start a fire. Shown below are our friends inside a cosy hut. The racks are for drying and warming up clothing around the stove.

Many local people ride without the full snowmobiling gear we are used to, and helmets are not mandatory in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. We often saw people snowmobiling in fur trapper hats, goggles, and mittens, so I am sure their faces get really cold. Full face helmets are so much warmer and we were glad to have them.

Interior of warm up hut, near Labrador City.

This was our first trip using our new Arctic Cat snowmobile, shown below with John and I. It has two gas tanks and can travel up to 500 km between fill ups. We also found the suspension to be very comfortable, compared to our 11 year old Skidoo, and I loved having a heated seat and handlebars. Our helmet visors are also heated electrically, so they don't frost up from our breath.

John and Karen snowmobiling near Labrador City     John and Karen snowmobiling near Labrador City

From our two previous winter trips to Labrador City, we knew to stay on trails, as the un-groomed snow is very powdery, like flour or white sugar. John stepped off the trail to demonstrate this to our friends, and immediately sank up to his torso. His boot had not reached bottom yet, so he had to lay back onto the snow to roll onto the trail.

John sunk in powder snow near Labrador City

All too soon, it was time to head back to Ontario. The weather was colder on the trip out, as shown by the photos below. The first one was taken on the trip into Labrador.

View of open river from the road to Labrador City

Below is the same view four days later, silvered with frozen mist.

Open river near Labrador City

We thoroughly enjoyed our week away. If you ever get the chance, it's worth the trek to Labrador to take advantage of their world class snowmobile trails. March or April is the best time to go - good snow conditions, less cold weather, and more sunshine!

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

 

We Found the Snow!

20 February, 2016 7 comments Leave a comment

We have had an exceptionally mild winter in central Ontario this year, with green grass on our lawn in early February, but we managed to find great snow conditions for our annual couple's snowmobile safari.

Our route took us and our friends around the eastern end of Algonquin Park, from Barry's Bay to Pembroke to Mattawa and back. The photo above is the Petawawa River.

John and Karen Richardson near Deux Rivieres     John and Karen Richardson on a Snowmobile Safari

Here are my husband and I with our Ski-Doo. During our trip, John and I celebrated our 39th anniversary, on Valentine's Day.

We saw lots of animal tracks in the snow and I managed to photograph a few of the deer we saw.

Deer near Barry's Bay

Deer near Pembroke

We snowmobiled for four days, hauling our gear with us and staying in a different motel or lodge each night. The trails were in excellent condition, mostly smooth and not too busy.

If you have never seen the equipment that keeps snowmobile trails in good condition, here are some photos of a groomer. It's a big tractor with a plow on the front, and tows a heavy frame behind it. In the photos the frame is raised up on wheels for road transport; once on the trail the frame will be lowered to drag along the snow surface and flatten it out.

 Snowmobile trail groomer     Snowmobile trail groomer

We drove through lovely panoramic scenery, with hillsides made silver with a hoar frost.

Hoar frost in the Ottawa Valley

The fresh snow clung to tree branches to make a 'winter wonderland'.

Near the Petawawa River

When the sun shone, the shadow-play was marvelous.

Near the Petawawa River     Creek in the Ottawa Valley

Now I have lots of ideas for paintings of winter scenes!

Stay tuned for our next snowy adventure, in the wilds of Labrador.

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

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