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Friday, June 19, 2015

Day 16: North South Lake and Kaaterskill Clove

Roller coaster day - I felt like I was up down and all over the place. I started off by driving about an hour over to the Catskills. One of the towns around here (name starts with an H I think) was supposedly the first artist I should feel alive with artistic spirit. Catskill is not the greatest area. A car almost pulled out and hit me, two people were in a screaming match at a construction intersection from their cars, saw a hitchhiker, and saw a guy peeing on the side of the road. So it's just kind of weird here. But the campground/park I'm at, North South Lake, is nice and feels like a national park. Though for having "only three sites" available for tonight, there are at least ten in this loop that are empty. I could have been way closer to the bathroom!

Anyway I decided to go to site 6 on the Hudson River Art Trail (it is a welcome break not having to plot where I'm going and search for "the view" each day)me hitch is North/South Lake. It felt so good to be back in nature again, even with the wind and chill and no cell service. I can see what captivated Cole and others hiking through these woods and mountains. It is beautiful here but I do still miss Acadia an Maine. The storm clouds were intense this afternoon and kept quickly shifting with the wind. This spot would have actually been perfect to start my trip because it is where Cole sketched one of his first successful landscape paintings. Lake with Dead Trees along with two others were purchased by important figures in the New York art world in 1825 and basically launched Cole's career as a landscape painter.

So the view of North South Lake is a pivotal one! I believe he and Church only sketched the view, but I wanted to paint. It was just a nice spot to work. A duck couple walked right in front of me twice - they were so cute waddling right in front of me like they were just out for a walk together. I also met a two year old boy named Josiah with his grandpa. They stood and watched me work for awhile. Cutest kid ever who came and gave me a wild strawberry before they left. So once I learned about these sweet and DELICIOUS little strawberries hiding all around me I hunted for them on my breaks.

The landscape here is now protected as "forever wild" by the New York State Constitution, which is awesome! A Hudson River School goal was "not to paint nature as is, but rather to paint nature in its ideal form, an amalgamation of what is and what could be." Most places I've been on this trip have been preserved in their ideal form, which make me and the HRS dudes very happy.
Interesting flowers. Okay, I had many people deliver on my Lupine question. Anyone know this one?
Wild strawberries!
Wild flowers.
Beautiful deep purple.
Orange wild flowers and the lake right on the edge of the grass.
The duck couple.
North South Lake.

Though the painting from the afternoon turned out okay, I wasn't over the moon about it. I've had this nagging feeling that I'm not doing good work. I felt low for the first time on this trip. That I haven't really done a good painting since Niagara Falls. That I haven't gotten any better, and therefore that I've wasted a lot of time and resources. What am I even doing with all this when I'm done? Should I be applying for shows, and where and is it too late and etc etc. I texted my college painting professor (who is the Dumbledore to my Harry Potter, the Thomas Cole to my Frederic Church) (except way better than TC at figure painting). He gave me great perspective as I continue to learn what it means to be a lifelong artist. "Painting is supposed to humble you, force you to learn, and challenge you. The moment you just do it, you're not really learning anymore. That's why you keep painting." THE artist struggle. There is so much pressure on the visual to do more than normal to recreate the experience as though the viewer is there. How do you tell a story with a paintbrush? How do you paint an experience? How do you paint with honesty? I want so badly to convey the experiences I'm having, on so many levels. My individual journey as a young woman on her own for the first time, my growth as an artist and painter, my admiration for the artists I am following, my reverence for the landscapes they painted and I now paint, the contemplative experience of working plein air, the experience of being outside surrounded by grass and wind and trees and bugs. All of this I want to convey in every little painting.

So it was with a mind full of doubt and motivation to continue improving and work the struggle that I approached the 5x7 piece I did of Kaaterskill Clove. I feel back on track again with new fire and motivation. Back at my campsite, I had intended to do some hardcore Thomas Cole reading tonight, but I instead turned to a book called Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland, which basically addresses the "artist struggle." I have yet to read further in the book because I always find solace in the first chapters.

May not sound comforting, but it makes me feel like less of a crazy person for having these fears and doubts. It puts the struggle in a bigger perspective of something all artists experience, and perhaps non-artists as well. That fear is meant to be challenged, to propel me where I haven't been before. So here's to a lifetime of challenging fears never quitting.
Amazonian jungle, or New York??














  1. Rock on! You are doing great!!! I feel like bad days are normal? (Don't know if that actually helps) but I don't think you're crazy!
    You can do it!!!!!!! <3333

  2. Hang in there, Em! Tell the other Em to cool out and not overthink everything.

    BTW: From the leaves, my guess is a type of rhododendron.

  3. Ok, BUCK UP LITTLE TROOPER! Listen to Bruce, read about self doubts but KNOW that your paintings do matter and are wonderful. Art appreciation is in the eyes of the beholder...not everyone will love every painting but every painting will be loved! I certainly hope you have a gallery showing of your work when you are done!
    And, I think your paintings DO convey your have my permission to leave out the bugs!
    Love, mom

  4. Oh, Littlefoot...hang in are doing an AWESOME job with your paintings! Never stop believing in yourself!