The Artwork of

William Lathrop

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Artist in Residence - 2005
Entry Date: 09/22/2005 - Thursday

Autumnal Equinox: Last evening - before dinner - I walked along the beach by the cabin - near the eastern edge of 12-Mile beach. The light wasn't particularly bright - the hazy sunset was muted in color. Man! The flies! It is still warm here; fall hasn't taken a bite yet. There was little wind and the flies were out. They swarmed all over my clothes - dozens of them. On my pants to the left of my knee there were about 25 in one little spot. Really! - I have pictures! Only rarely did they buzz my head - or I would have gone nuts. They were annoying, but not "walk ending".

Along the beach, I discovered mushrooms near the border between the beach and the woods. Large, with upturned heads, so as to catch water - which they had done. I had never seen such mushrooms and they were quite interesting.

I don't remember if I've mentioned the refrigerator yet. It was very slow getting cold yesterday. Perhaps that is characteristic of gas refrigerators, I don't know.

This morning I awoke after I noticed it starting to get light. After a brief breakfast I packed the car to paint. I decided to head west, toward Munising. It was gray out - though not too cold. After a quick cereal breakfast, with a thermos of coffee I headed out, around 8:00 or so. The road was still bad - now wet from the rain of the previous night a little slushy as well. A few miles along I ran into a large birch branch that had fallen across the road. It looked like something I could move - so I did. A couple of the larger branches broke off with minimal effort and I was able to drag the main body to the side of the road. I was off again after kicking or throwing most of the small branches and scraps from the road.

Running only 10-15 miles per, conditions as they were, it took forever to get to the road to Chapel Basin. I planned to do one painting with a little exploring filled in.

After a few miles down the Chapel Basin road there was a bulldozer dozing and the road was a mess. I stopped the car and got out - so did bulldozer guy. I told him I probably couldn't get through with only rear-wheel drive on my van - hoping he would disagree - which he did. He told me he could fix the road and in just 3 or 4 passes with only a minute or so elapsed, the road was passable and I was able to get through. I suppose, half the year the road is covered with snow - snowmobiles rule. So perhaps the gravel road isn't such a liability then.

I reached the parking area for the Chapel Basin, put together my painting backpack - while realizing all the things I stupidly forgot - like water, snack food, probably other stuff too. I wandered down the path toward Chapel Falls. Near the trailhead I found a decent walking stick and ambled along behind a couple from Colorado who departed slightly ahead of me. About 10 minutes down the path, thinking about the details of setting up to paint, I realized I had forgotten my mixing palette. There was no work-around with what I had, so I walked back to the van to get it - thinking again about forgetting water and briefly pondering painting somewhere else. I persevered however and was shortly back on the trail past where I had turned around. Only a half mile lost time - more or less. Up some hills I walked slowly - with the aid of my found walking stick.

Well, I've been able to evade most of my thoughts about bears, but I was just now writing in the van, with the comfort of a little music off the satellite. I missed music so much last night. So, I just heard this muffled roaring sound. Hey, it could have been the wind but it sure sounded like something growling. I started the car, put it in reverse to light the backup lights, but didn't catch anything scampering away. But just the same, I decided to move inside the cabin for the night.

This morning, on the Chapel Falls path, which some distance further leads to Chapel Beach, I encountered a sign announcing the trail split, with Chapel Lake overlook only 60 feet to the left and the falls .6 miles ahead. With the pack weighing on me, I verged to the Lake view - which was poor as it was blocked by the surrounding leaf growth. But, starting back I saw some interesting moss covered beach trees growing around a small stream. This is what I painted.

I started with a translucent wash of transparent brown oxide, with maybe a little permanent red. I added in the tree shapes with some of my light green and some of the brown. Outlines first, then lightly blocked in. I then went for the darks, where the tree roots intersected the ground and in the walls of the stream. This was the first plein air piece I've done in about a month. Considering that, it went better than I expected. Most of the values fell medium to dark. The new green mixture I'm using helped the greens go in much easier - cooled with cerulean and warmed with transparent brown, permanent red or cadmium orange.

This green I've been using consists of a touch of Windsor blue in Cadmium lemon. This creates a bright but harmonious green. Unsuitable by itself, but one that easily mixes with other pigments without getting muddy.

While painting the wind picked up and I was a little chilly. I realized I also forgot a sweatshirt. While walking I had been fine, but painting I was cold and the wind had picked up from the North.

I finished painting, and then took the trail down to Chapel falls, leaving my pack and painting behind along the trail. It wasn't far; I took a few quick pictures - my camera seeming to capture better color after some adjustments. Reviewing pictures from yesterday last night after dinner, I saw that in some of the darker images I was getting an accented purplish cast. I checked all the options and setting the white balance to cloudy seemed the most helpful. Returning down the path to retrieve my things I found a bird had shit on my painting. I couldn't wipe if off - the paint was still wet - so I guess this piece will include some site materials.

By the time I reached the car I was quite hungry and headed toward Munising. Thought I would get some food before a visit to the Miner River area. I had seen signs for a club on the way out yesterday. The Bear Trap in Van Deer is what I had seen and it was open. Walking in, I found myself the only customer. Two girls in their younger 20s folded napkins around silverware and greeted me kindly. We exchanged some banter and I ordered a diet coke and roast beef sandwich with mashed potatoes. One girl, taller and dressed for the kitchen, left to make the food. The other, shorter and dressed for tips, stayed behind to fold napkins.

I asked if they were open all year or seasonally. It turns out the busy season is winter - go figure. The woods are full of snowmobilers, hundreds of them, and mostly drunk by her description. She recalled a story about one group drunken and laughing, who had set off a stink bomb in the crowded restaurant. They treated her lewdly as well before being evicted with some effort - so she related to me.

The food came, as did more customers and they let me be while I ate. It was good, and would have been even if I weren't starving.

From the Bear Trap I drove down paved road to Miners River Road and followed that toward the lakeshore - this time turning right at the final T - east rather than west. Gregg had mentioned something of this when I arrived. I ventured down the trail from the parking area and found geography similar to west end of Miners Beach. It was quite windy now. The lake was churned up some with pronounced white caps along shore. Looking into the breaking waves, the water a bright green/blue. I decided to paint here.

With a base of permanent rose and some of my violet mixture (ultramarine and perm. alizarin crimson) I did a block in of the lighter areas. I modified my palette for cooloer colors of the shore versus the warmer colors I used in the rocks and woods. I was reminded of a plein air painter from Maine I had met at an arts festival some years back. He was showing some nice studies of the Maine shore - very nice work. I think I was shooting for something similar in this view of the agitated lake bounding into the rocky shore.

As I painted, the brisk north wind gradually pushed most of the clouds south - though I finished my study before the light changed significantly. While I was painting, a photographer joined the scene - equipped with a large format camera. We spoke briefly, a professional landscape photographer from Quebec. He had been in the area a couple days and was leaving tomorrow. For the time, we each returned to our work. I put another 45 minutes into the painting as the clouds continued to push south. After wrapping up, I took my painting back to the van and returned to talk with my photographer friend, Arnold Zageris.

I shot some images of him working as I approached, and we talked as the weather continued to improve. He was waiting for sunlight to illuminate the water - which was beautiful, almost carribean when it eventually came. I shot some pictures, we exchanged cards and a promise to e-mail and I started back - wanting to get on the road so I could get back before dark - with a quick stop for gas in Munising. With the threat of Hurricane Rita - now in the Gulf of Mexico at category 5 with 175 mph sustained winds - can you possibly imagine such a thing - I was pretty sure the price of gas was only going up in coming days - just as it had with New Orleans killer, Katrina.

I called home with the benefit of a cell signal and then returned to the cabin in an hour and a half - the best time yet.

All Materials Copyright © William Lathrop, 2007
Last Modified on June 05, 2007