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Thursday, June 4, 2015

Day 2: Niagara Falls (part 2)

Second day at the falls! I found a better spot to work that was higher up and more removed from the tourist hang out. I worked on a larger canvas today after preparing with sketch and small painting yesterday. It is pretty incredible: my job today was to paint Niagara Falls. (!!)
The day started off overcast which was good for my sunburn (I put on sunscreen and wore long sleeves today too). I settled in to my new spot and put painted an underpainting on the canvas. I meant to do it last night so it would be somewhat dry, but it ended up working well. Whatever color you out down, if it's still wet, will mix with all the other colors you put on top of it and unite them in a way, and provide contrast to whatever colors you're putting down. You can also indicate some value at the stage of the painting. I learned it from my painting professor Bruce Erikson at Xavier and really hate working the landscape into a white blank canvas.
Underpainting and quick sketch.
My favorite part of the Horseshoe Falls view is the part of the horseshoe closest to me. I can't see the actual falling water, but I can see the ledge and it's as if the earth just ends. It's a nice deep blue color and what I can see right behind it is the almost-white mist from the falling water. Compositionally, I know I like this because it has the most contrast and that's where my eye is drawn. It was kind of mesmerizing to watch gallons and gallons of water rushing and crashing and white-capping and then just disappearing.
Edge of the world.
I tried to put myself in Church and Cole's shoes. They did such extensive studies of Niagara Falls for their paintings over the course of months and years. I am only getting a taste of the true time the dedicated to their craft, and to their depiction of a single subject matter. When Church painted his 42x90 inch painting Niagara, he made another painting the same size right next to it to resolve any issues for the final canvas. He painted the falls so many times he could do it from memory, on command with stunning accuracy. He really knew this waterfall. This is perhaps what I love most about painting, and plein air painting - you become intimately acquainted with the subject matter you depict, simply by spending time and carefully observing that thing or place.
I had more fans today as I worked - I really felt like a celebrity. Several people asked to take my picture and one man asked if I could get a picture with his granddaughter! I told her I felt like a celeb and she told me "someday you will be famous!" I wrote down my website and blog for three different people. Thanks to my mom I will have some artist cards to hand out as I work from here on out. A man from Puerto Rico with very limited English seemed excited about my painting and the falls in general. His friend/partner translated a poignant message: "Only God could create something so beautiful."
I've seen several cyclists and it makes me miss my bike! I put spray sunscreen on and had tons of memories from my family's cyclist trip come flooding back...sunscreen was part of our morning ritual. Crazy how just the smell of something can do that to you! Maybe the next big trip will be on two wheels again - but for now I am happy for my camper van and painting pack.
Thank you to Rachel and her family for being so hospitable while I was in Buffalo. I had a wonderful home cooked meal tonight and did a load of laundry. Leaving early in the morning for Acadia National Park!
I worked at a Terrapin Point.
Work in progress.
An epic spot to paint...
The final painting.

Church's painting, Niagara.


  1. LOVE your final painting! Just think, two days out and you have a final painting whereas you only had a few finished since you graduated XU and had to work teaching art! This is going to be such a productive summer for you!
    Love, mom

  2. So excited to be following you on your journey! Your talent is incredible.