The Artwork of

William Lathrop

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Artist in Residence - 2005
Entry Date: 09/27/2005 - Tuesday

After an early breakfast I drove Kingston Lake to capture the early morning light. It was a beautiful clear, crisp morning - still mostly green but there were some hints of fall. Steam rose from the lake in the chilly, still air. I walked along the road past the state forest campground, along the eastern side of the lake, up to the second pullout. It looked navigable but didn't have as good a view as where I parked - I walked back and set up painting near the boat launch in the day use area.

The air was calm, no wind. There was an intense, outdoor quiet. Then, I could hear the birds - all manner of them going about all manner of things. It was a very serene morning and the resulting sense of wonder stayed with me throughout the day. As I neared the campground, I heard some form of canines howling, it really sounded like wolves. It could have been dogs, but it was a wilder sound and this area would not have had unescorted dogs. Another ranger question.

I painted looking south-southeast. The sun rose gradually from my left. I painted a small wooded area, a small island or isthmus set into the lake. Wooded hills lay in the distance to right and left. What caught my interest were the mature white pine limbs in silhouette at each end.

Being a painter has awakened the naturalist in me. I have a deep interest in learning about the natural world I encounter each day. What bird, what tree, how did those boulders get there. It's all so incredibly interesting - what beauty, intricate beauty surrounds us. Perhaps it is hard to leave such an intense interaction with nature and not become part naturalist. Perhaps we need a school to educate today's young people about the outdoors - not in the Outward Bound model - but a week's immersion during the summer like a summer camp - but with some lessons.

So this clump of trees in the lake was lit from the side - great lighting to reveal the structure of the white pine that I was interested in. Ed, summer employee of the national park service, said this whole area around Kingston Lake, known as the Kingston Plain, was once heavily timbered with these pine. The morning light also created good aerial perspective for my painting. I would have gotten it complete -the foreground needs some highlights and darks - except for two welcome visits from national park staff. First was Brenda, she is the fee collector. She had posted a note on my door the previous week regarding the teaching schedule in Munising. It was nice to visit with a live human, and Brenda was nice, I wish she had stayed longer. I then met Ed, a summer staff member. He was there for lunch, and I asked him many questions about the area. Ed, when not in working season, photographs the park and area - until winter makes it too difficult to get around.

Both told me, and TC later confirmed, that the folks driving around with dogs and spotlights are most likely bear hunters - not the coon hunters I had suspected. Imagine that.

So in my painting I got to the point the lights and darks in the foreground no longer matched what I had started painting - a relevant change so I stopped, hoping tomorrow would be a similarly nice day.

I drove slowly back toward my lakeshore, hoping I would find a decent turn-in near the birch grove. The one I found was a little further, but offered some interesting walks into the woods; each different path offering a different view, a different environment, each interesting and beckoning travel beyond the next turn.

As I walked through I heard this thud on the ground - it was an acorn from the only oak tree I've seen during my stay. The ground was littered with acorns around this tree. Why wasn't someone eating or storing these. Perhaps there are so few oak that no one sees them as food. Another question begging to be answered.

After a couple different strolls through this area I was tempted to drive further down the forest road - but instead chose to travel to 12-mile beach.

I was sustained throughout mid-day by Trenary Toasts - essentially large cinnamon croutons - but quite tasty. The whole bag lasted less than a day.

I drove slowly through the campground area. Once again I ran into TC - the second time we crossed paths this day. The first minutes earlier while I was exploring where I had turned into the forest. He had a very cool palm-type device that held the weather forecast. It doesn't look like I'll get the good morning that I was hoping for tomorrow; I will need to research a different subject.

My campground cruise showed some intriguing painting ideas - but on the way out I spotted a birch overlooking the lake - which was a spectacular Caribbean blue/green today. Such amazing colors here around every turn.

I settled on painting this birch, starting to turn fall color. My focus was the left most trunk of this birch clump, which bordered a V notch in the dune that expanded into a view of the lake. Waves were moderate, with that bright emerald color. I think I struggled a little with the backlit leaves in the tree; otherwise this is a nice little piece. It has been a good day. I finished this painting about 3:30 - which gave me time for dinner and possibly a 3rd painting, which I'd planned for at the Hurricane River inlet.

After bacon-wrapped chicken thighs, rice and some broccoli, I moved on to the Hurricane River area - which was somewhat busy (in contrast to the isolation I had experienced the rest of the day).

The Hurricane River didn't provide the views I was looking for, so tempted by promises of waiting shipwrecks, I decided on the 1-mile hike to the lighthouse. I was nicely rewarded for that decision by the walk on the beach to get there. The early evening light was wonderful - the beach between the river and lighthouse is filled with wonderful small sandstone features. Big boulders are strewn about (yes, how did they get here - they are alien to the natural rock outcropping). And there are shipwrecks. Many photos entered today's photo log from this area.

As I walked it clouded up, with the fun falling behind whisper cirrus clouds just as I rounded lighthouse point. The shadows went away. Around the point was the bizarre view onto the dune, the Grand Sable Dunes, which are certainly a strange feature. How would you paint that? Indeed, there are some features that belong only for photographs and this journal. In a painting, they would be too idiosyncratic. A painting needs appropriately quaint subject matter I think. I would also argue that some subjects are too quaint, this lighthouse I was exploring being one.

From the lighthouse I walked back toward the trailhead on the Lakeshore Trail, which wound Little-Red-Riding-Hood-like through the woods. This path was not as scenic as the beach, but much faster.

I examined another book of Superior area photographs last night - Superior: Journeys on an Inland Sea by Gary and Joanie McGuffin. Nice work, and she provides a nice highlight in many of the shots.

There was something in the attic last night, an animal moving round. It could have been a squirrel - but I think probably a raccoon. I walked around the cabin's perimeter tonight before my music time in the van. The roof is in good repair; the soffits all look sealed. The gable vents appeared to have screens and the slats weren't disturbed. The only place that looks like a potential point of entry is the small bit of rot at the base of the external logs just to the right of the front door. Ed mentioned that flaw this morning as we were talking. I wadded up and stuffed paper towel in the hole - we'll see if it gets moved overnight. While wadding the towel, I ground a liberal dose of pepper in it - if anything moves it, they're going to get a snootful of pepper.

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