Monday, May 28, 2018

Fisherman's Rest

Fisherman's Rest
oil on panel, 12 x 16, Copyright 2018
Peter Bougie
Photo by Nora Koch
    Fisherman’s Rest is a place on the Rush River in El Paso, Wisconsin (not Texas). It is one of those places you can find in remote areas, whether they are buried in a city or in the countryside. Somehow, they have avoided the ravages of progress. There is a stretch of road which proceeds to a dead end, where there is parking and a shelter for picnic makers and fishermen.  Dead ends are consoling. I know traffic will be limited. Along the river side of the road, before you come to the fork which takes you up out of the valley or down to the dead end, you pass the ruined building in this painting. On its downstream side is a broad greensward that someone has been mowing and leaving free for public use for, I’m told, at least fifty years. On this broad green lawn, liberally shaded by towering old cottonwoods, I painted this view of the past in profile to the present. So far it is a one session painting, although I am not oppossed to developing it further. What I like best about this old ruin is the shadowy opening underneath, which has an air of work long ago interrupted and left where it lay.
Detail, Fisherman's Rest
 The shade in the foreground is provided by an impressive cottonwood that must be at least seventy feet tall. It has a very straight trunk unbroken by limbs until arcs of them break out about two thirds of the way up. Tall old trees inspire me to speculate about their age and how it compares to the time line of my life history.  I wonder who rested under them, and when, and what was happening in the world when they did. 

Untitled Study, 16 x 12, oil on panel,
Rush River
  The second painting was done a few miles downstream near the Ellsworth Rod and Gun Club, showing the Rush a bit discolored from the recent heavy rains, and the willows and box elders bending over the water, making shadows under the banks. The valley of the Rush has become a little gorge here, and a tall palisade shades these waters, keeping the vicinity relatively cool throughout the morning hours. Hawks and vultures soar in its updrafts, remote from the water, which, a little downstream from here, is channeled over a rugged rocky funnel.  My wife Nora and I with her brother John spent a couple of quiet hours here one hot morning recently. Trout were rising; John would have known what was hatching and bringing them up. It was a hot day. After two hours, the paint on the panel had become quite sticky, and I could no longer work on it. I was using a copal gel medium, which sets quickly in the heat. Fast setting paint allows you to plan and create an underpainting you can paint over selectively and advantageously. Of course, you have to work fast, and once it reaches a certain tack, it's too sticky to paint on until it dries. Even slow setting mediums or slow (low v.o.c) turp set fast outside in hot weather, but I don't recommend copal gel for beginners. If you are working fast, it's often a matter of you win some and you lose some. Experience will increase your odds in this scenario. 

Delight in the world’s good
at the very most
can only tire the appetite
and spoil the palate;
and so, not for all sweetness
will I ever lose myself,
but for I-don’t-know-what
which is so gladly found.

            St. John of the Cross, Romances, #12, A gloss (with a spiritual meaning) #1.

1) Low v.o.c. or volatile organic compounds. Low odor spirits is low odor because it is less volatile - evaporates more slowly - than regular spirits.
2) St. John of the Cross, (Santo Juan de la Cruz) 16th century Carmelite mystic, spiritual advisor of St. Theresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church, and still much revered Spanish poet.

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