A Painting from the Bottom of a River
I like to paint images that suggest a story to involve the viewer. It is interesting how often someone will comment on a person in a painting and say that looks like my father, grandchild, uncle etc. Or that a scene reminds me of my grandmother’s home, the old family farm and so on.
Since I am not doing portraiture, it not the actual likeness but the gestures and mood of the painting that stir up these memories. I intentionally keep the story vague so it there is room for interpretation.
I mostly work from photographs that I have taken and there is a real story or event behind each painting. Mostly these are minor but sometimes there is a significant tale.
I usually don’t share these since I do want the viewer to make their own connection and become a co-creator of the story.
“Quiet Journey” was recently selected (one of four of my paintings ) to be included in 2016 Lower Sugar River Watershed Association juried art show “The Seasons of the Sugar River-Metamorphosis”. In fact, Quiet journey is highlighted and featured on the publicity postcard for the event.
This painting is a reminder of a very interesting day. So I thought that I would share the full story at the risk of inhibiting your ability to overlay your own connections.
The “Quiet Journey” Story
There is a summer time event in Paoli WI sponsored by the Lower Sugar River Association that offers activities such as yoga in the park, free canoe trips, and music. Shelley and I thought this sounded like fun and headed out to Paoli.
After some awkward attempts at yoga on the uneven ground of the park, it was off to The main attraction – the opportunity to borrow a canoe and travel down a slow moving portion of the lower Sugar River.
A trolley bus loaded us up and headed upstream where a collection of canoes awaited us. Then a scramble ensued to pick a canoe. (Some people seemed to have a definite idea of which canoes were preferred. To me, they were are all canoes.)
On Your Mark…
Life vests were already In the canoes and we all awkwardly pushed off and tried to remain in a holding pattern. Canoes pointed all directions either because some of us like me didn’t know which direction we were going and the need to continue to make room as additional vessels entered the water. Not to mention the difficulty of remaining somewhat stationary in a canoe while we waited for the leader.
For the most part, the river was gentle as we ambled down the river back towards the town. Going solo or with just a few would be easy enough. However, with this many canoes (20 or 25) manned by limited skill paddlers, the main challenge was avoiding it turning into bumper boats. (More experienced people would have their own canoe and would be wise enough to stay clear of this situation.)
Having limited skill myself but more muscle and common sense than many in the caravan, I spent a lot of time dodging careening canoes with paddles flailing straight out with a wingspan resembling dragonflies.
Bumpkins with no brakes. Maybe people who had a different idea of when in the day it was appropriate to start drinking. (They certainly thought being out of control was funnier than it seemed to me.)
Still, there were many pleasant moments such as when I snapped this picture. It was a warm day, blue skies full of smiles.
A few “rapids” areas brought a little excitement. Canoes and guides who had successfully navigated hung around in the resulting pool to see how others fared.
The inevitable happened near a sand bar. Not readily identifiable, it created a squeeze point.
First Shelley and I slowed to give the canoes ahead clearance. As we started forward again, one of those runaway row boats came racing towards the narrows – backwards!
All engines in reverse! This resulted in me backing up into a broken end of a branch on the shore. So I tried to muscle the canoe to rotate out of it. But it rotated underwater instead of staying on the surface. Splash! Disaster! But still preferable than being impaled.
It was a shallow area so we were able to bounce up to standing immediately. The life jacket worked perfectly. And after a few more gunners had passed we were able to drag the canoe onto the sandbar.
My phone had been in the bottom of the boat to easily take pictures. I stuck my hand down into the swirling muck to try to find the phone. Not likely! So I stood still and asked myself where would it be? Went to that spot and stuck my arm in and there it was! Did lose a nice hat, though.
We had to finish the trip, wet, gritty and pissed.
How To Save A Drowning Phone
The final landing was reached and I was anxious to try to salvage the phone. Rice is supposed to help recover a wet phone (I couldn’t verify that on from the internet having lost my service at the bottom of the river.)
There is a local store in Paoli which a more of a health food deli. So I had to buy brown organic basmati rice in an attempt to dry out the phone.
The phone eventually came mostly back to life with the exception of occasionally getting service sounding like a phone call in a goldfish bowl. I was able to get the photographs off of the phone but not able to take any new pictures.
Many months later I had recovered from trauma so I could look at the pictures and decide the happy part would make a good painting. In fact, when naming it “Quiet Journey”, I had not thought about the entire day but just the mood conveyed by the scene depicted. When thinking of the entire story, the title becomes a bit ironic.
Soon after completing the painting, the lower sugar river juried show was announced. Since I already had one painting in hand that fit, I decided to paint some others. All four of my submissions were accepted.
And I ended up deciding to concentrate on creating mainly river scenes. See the new paintings announced.
Not a bad return to a dumped dugout ride.