The Artwork of

William Lathrop

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Artist in Residence - 2005
Entry Date: 09/24/2005 - Saturday

The last few days the wind has been from the north - at times quite brisk. In those conditions, the lake was often quite turbulent. I sat on my beach yesterday afternoon; waves were crashing in, though not as violently as the day before. Still, looking out at the lake to the horizon reveals not an unbroken line, but a surprisingly jagged one - moving with the waves, irregular peaks and valleys. I first noticed this a couple years ago watching the ocean in Florida - and found it surprising then. I think I've always assumed - and never noticed otherwise - in looking at a large body of water that the horizon line would be flat, due to distance alone.

I was up early today, as I had hoped. After a quick cereal breakfast I was on my way to the Chapel Basin and the landscape of Thomas Moran. Following the trail, the one I had walked earlier in the week to Chapel Falls - but today beyond the falls all the way to the beach.

Chapel Rock was my first sight - a bizarre platform of rock balanced on 3 pillars, with a hemlock growing from the top. Not good painting material - too weird - but interesting none the less. This morning's weather was perfect, crystal clear blue skies with bright sunshine. Slightly to the west were the cliffs of Pictured Rocks - all lit in full sun as I arrived. I explored around to the east of the beach and to the walls of the west. This area was, or must have been Moran's vantage point - but I didn't see any position that yielded a view quite like his sketch. Either he compressed space or the rocks were significantly different 145 years ago. I'll bring this up with Gregg.

It was not my day for painting. I chose a spot on top of the beach looking over toward Grand Portal Point and the rocks along the shore. It was not a great composition. But the colors (in the scene) were striking - so I gave it a shot. The problem - I soon learned - with this choice of subject was the angle of the rock cliffs to the sun and the speed at which the light and shadows on the rock changed. I was playing catch-up from the get go - struggling with the colors of the rocks in shadow. Poor composition, my drawing was flawed, the colors I used too cool; it was my worst painting of the trip.

The water was Caribbean green today, a beautiful color. Actually, all the colors were stunning - I just didn't capture them. Perhaps it was because I was painting in the shadows (I know - excuses, excuses); Tony Johnson, another artist I paint with from time to time, mentioned something about that when he paints in the shadows - the colors turn out cool.

Today the wind was light - early - but then picked up from the south. The lake was calm and the horizon flat.

There were a number of hikers and the beach was relatively busy. A couple groups took interest in my work. One group had stopped on their trek to the beach. They went skinny dipping at the west end. One man from that group later came back to check my painting. He told me he was interested in it. Knowing myself what type of day I was having, I suggested he wait for the complete range of paintings to choose from.

Once done at Chapel Beach, I returned by another route - to the west of Chapel Lake, a walk that provided a much better overlook of the lake. This path started through a birch grove - I think Gregg had mentioned it to me when we were discussing the neat places. It was here that I should have painted today. It was 3.1 miles in, about the same distance back out, the bones feel it tonight.

Clouds moved in this afternoon, the wind has shifted. It appears to be a moderate breeze from the west, though it is darkening to the north.

I've noticed on my drives, particularly early in the day, trucks driving slowly with a spotlight aimed at the side of the road. These trucks all seem to include a collection of beagles, so I am assuming they are some kind of coon hunters - another question for Gregg. Another thing that surprises me is the lack of wildlife. Not so say it isn't here, but after 4 days I've only seen 2 deer. This morning even the birds seemed absent. The woods everywhere seem quiet and still.

Life's ironies: I've been reading the book on Tom Thomson, the Canadian painter. His work has been inspirational to me, particularly for this trip. So, I'm rummaging through the bookcase here in the cabin looking for something to read tonight. I got in early, and dinner (baked potato, sweet potato, and chicken wrapped in bacon) is done. So, I picked up the Oct/Nov 1979 issue of Backpacker Magazine and low and behold there is an article on Thomson. How weird is that.


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