Sunday, October 26, 2008

"Lisa, Kanuti"

"Its the great big, broad land 'way up yonder,
It's the forest where silence has lease;
It's the beauty that fills me with wonder,
It's the stillness that fills me with peace."

~Robert Service, excerpt from "The Spell Of The Yukon"

"Lisa, Kanuti", 24"x 18",oil on panel, was inspired by my recent pack rafting/hiking trip with Ed, Lisa, Dan C and Dan P to Kanuti hot springs in the Alaskan Interior. We had traveled 4.5 hours north of Fairbanks along the Dalton Highway. It was very remote. There wasn't a soul around for miles, perhaps a hundred miles or more. The day was amazing. We had bushwhacked over a mile uphill and then traversed the smaller peaks near Caribou Mountain. The fall colours were our in full force and painted the landscape a variety of reds, ochres, whites and greens.

As we crested the top of a hill I took some shots of Lisa. I particularly enjoyed the quality of light all through Alaska, how it played upon objects and people. It was pure, clean, was immediate and true. The interesting thing about this painting is that I had set up a couple of other small moments to take photos for a painting of Lisa earlier on in the trip...However this one, shot quickly and candidly, was the one that captured my interest. The mountains on the horizon, the reds of the foliage around her, and Lisa's pacific expression all served as inspiration.

We had heavy packs on and our water was precious up there as we had long left the Kanuti river that we had pack rafted down to the hot springs. I have never painted a backpack before but that lent an authenticity to the piece for me. I don't like posing really and try to keep my compositions as genuine as possible, with utilitarian objects included that are just as important to the narrative.

I wanted to convey Lisa as accurately in the moment as possible. She has since moved away from Alaska and I thought about that while I painted this piece. I wondered if it might serve as a little reminder of one of her last treks in the vast Alaskan landscape before she moved on. She has a beautiful personality and energy to her and I hope that it is evident here.

While the hills in the distance are rolling and seem innocuous, make no mistake. It was serious business hiking through that back country. There were times that my body wanted to give out but I knew that only my own two feet would carry me onwards. It was very humbling, very intense and the difficulty of it made its resolution all the sweeter. 

On a side note, I have been painting on wood panel more lately. I enjoy the look of the brushstrokes on the surface more than canvas. I find that the brushstrokes get a bit lost in the texture of canvas sometimes. I would like to experiment with different supports and surfaces but panel is definitely my preferred material to paint on currently. 

You can read more about my adventures at Kanuti on my other blog, Heather's Paintings And Musings. 

"Keep close to Nature's heart...and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean." ~John Muir

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