The Making of 'Superior Jewels and Gems'

23 September, 2021 2 comments Leave a comment

All my life, I have felt the magnetic pull of stone, from mountains to boulders to pebbles to grains of sand.

Perhaps it was my childhood spent near Algonquin Park, surrounded by the terrain of the Canadian Shield, that makes me instinctively drawn to rock-filled wilderness scenery.

Pictured here is 'Superior Jewels' (varnished watercolour on 20 x 16" panel), a painting that features the beautiful weathered stones of a Canadian Shield fresh water beach.

Photo of Pebble Beach (view eastwards) at Marathon, Ontario by Karen Richardson

Many people I meet at art shows or in my art classes are as captivated by beach pebbles as I.

We often talk about our shared fascination with smooth stones, especially those displaying unusual colours or interesting patterns.

Marathon Pebble Beach, photo by Karen Richardson

During a classroom chat about four years ago, one of my painting students suggested I would enjoy a visit to Pebble Beach in the town of Marathon on Lake Superior's northern shore.

Since then, my husband and I have visited this beach once or twice every year.

Shown here are three views looking eastward along the shore, photographed during three separate visits.

The beach and lake look different every time, due to the weather conditions of the moment (sun, clouds, fog, wind).

Marathon Pebble Beach, photo by Karen Richardson

Marathon's Pebble 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 Pebble Beach (view westwards) at Marathon, Ontario by Karen Richardson

One wonders how stones from many different rocky origins ended up in one place. Imagine the journeys they have undertaken over millions of years to reach this gathering place.

I always wear my hiking boots to explore this beach, as walking on these piles of shifting 'bowling balls' with camera in hand is a tricky prospect.

Shown here is the westward view along Pebble Beach.

So far, I have completed two paintings of this beach, choosing a low point of view for the composition to give the stones more prominence. Both of these paintings have been acquired by private collectors.

I photographed each step of my painting process and created one-minute time lapse videos, to show you the flow of these paintings from start to finish.

Click on the pictures below to view the videos and get an idea of how I work.

The Making of 'Superior Jewels' (2021):


The Creation of 'Superior Gems' (2018):


Marathon Pebble Beach, photo by Karen Richardson

I have many more dramatic photos of this beach and am looking forward to creating more paintings of this remarkable place. If you are a 'rockaholic' like me, you will understand my compulsion.

Here is a photo looking out into the lake that really inspires me. I will attempt a painting of it one day when I need a serious 'pebble fix'. 

Do you have favourite spots on Lake Superior I should visit? If you have suggestions or 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 of her painting stories, travel tales, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming exhibitions.

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  1. Dorothy Chambers September 27, 2021

    Visit Marathon Pebble Beach every time we go to grandchildren in Atikokan. Also love another beach called Stone Beach on same highway but further south ( smaller stones)

  2. Sharon Hackert September 24, 2021

    Sinclair Cove, Lake Superior is a favourite place for us to visit whenever we are in that area. The cove is on the hiking trail but has road access. You can find directions on the internet.