Great Lakes – painting water and sky

Lighthouse under the Bluewater Bridge

Lighthouse under the Bluewater Bridge

Water and sky present interesting challenges when painting with watercolors.

A recent trip put me on the shores of two Great Lakes – Lake Huron and Lake Erie — and gave me the opportunity to paint water and sky.

I painted the Gratiot Lighthouse, at the juncture of Lake Huron and the St. Clair River.

The lighthouse is almost under the Blue Water Bridge, between the United States and Canada. I painted in the late afternoon sun, walking through the sand to reach the lighthouse.

It was cold! But I stayed long enough to capture the light from the setting sun that highlighted one side of the lighthouse.

Fishing boats on Kettle Creek

Fishing boats on Kettle Creek

A week later I was at Port Stanley, a small village on Lake Erie. With two friends, we ate local yellow perch in a café on the waterfront and celebrated a birthday.

Then we explored the area to identify a painting location. The fall day was warm enough (although not near as warm as Florida) temperatures to paint en plein air (on location).

We sat in Glover Park, next to Kettle Creek, and painted. We sat at metal picnic tables, selecting locations that were in the sun and out of the wind. We wore our winter coats and used clips to hold our watercolor paper so it wouldn’t fly away in the breeze.

For my first painting, I faced looking toward Lake Erie, with fishing boats moored across Kettle Creek. As I painted, the sun moved behind clouds, changing the color of the sky and water.

King George VI Lift Bridge in Port Stanley

King George VI Lift Bridge in Port Stanley

For my second painting, I moved to the other side of the picnic table. I faced  Port Stanley’s landmark drawbridge — the King George VI Lift Bridge that was built in 1939.

As I painted, no sailboats arrived to require the bridge to be lifted, so I had a stationary subject. The colorful leaves in the background provide the announcement that this painting was made in the Fall.

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