Friday, April 26, 2013

Sun, Rain and Plein Air Painting in Alaska

With an average of 96 sunny days and 234 measurable precipitation days In Petersburg -- at least according to Sperling’s Best Places website -- you’d think southeast Alaskans are suffering from deprivation.  OK, we are, but wait.

How did Sperling come up with 96 days of sun?  We may see a flower pot’s worth of totally sunny days but I doubt they even add up to a vast number like 96 per year. Sometimes a radiant morning ends with rain induced blurring of my glasses during a late afternoon dog walk.  Or vice versa.  What about those “drat, I missed it because I sneezed,” sun days?   Maybe, if we modify the definition we'd see 234 days per year when the sun at least peeks into our world just to see if we haven’t moved to Arizona.  As an artist I feel clouds add character to a painting or a photograph -- as long as they temper their appearance with a little restraint.  Plus I doubt I’d get much painting done in my studio if I lived in Arizona.  More likely it would be covered with spider webs.  Someone said “All sunshine makes a desert.”  Oops, I like deserts.

After feeling abandoned by the sun most of the winter, we’ve had a pretty good flavoring of sunny days this month.  Some friends even suggested we were getting a summer this year -- just a little early.  So, I seized the opportunity to head to a favorite wetland for some plein air painting.  My destination -- the 21-mile Three Lakes Loop Road.  Somehow, I don’t think the US Forest Service had plein air painters in mind when they constructed that winding road to access timber sales, but still they succeeded.

Someone named the road figuring it would be poetic to name it after a cluster of three lakes accessed by trails that radiate from it's gravel surface.  The lakes are named after a bird that heralds the arrival of spring in Petersburg -- Sand, Hill and Crane in that order.  Naturally there’s no sand on the shores of Sand Lake, they all have hills around them and there’s no place for cranes to land on Crane Lake. 

My favorite part of the system, however, is a drainage into Hill Lake crossed by the Crane Lake Trail.  This drainage which parallels the road is augmented by the presence of our island beaver population.  The meandering watercourse creates painting compositions with every twist and bend, an idyllic setting for plein air painters on those 96 sunny days.

                        Three Lakes Meander 1    9 x 12 inches    Alkyd on canvas

                        Three Lakes Meander 2    9 x 12 inches    Alkyd on canvas


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