Since viewing Lawren Harris’ painting “Lake Superior, North Shore” at the National Gallery in 2004, I have wanted to travel there. Other than that painting I knew nothing of this land or lake. I now know Lake Superior is the largest, deepest and coldest body of fresh water in the world.
When I compare Lake Superior Provincial Park to Jasper National Park, I would describe them both as majestic. The Rocky Mountains were powerful, they altered my life and art. Lake Superior is mysterious and magical. It’s gently pushing my work forward. My painting has transitioned from mountains, to sky, and next it will be water and trees.
THE DRIVE NORTH
Remember the custom puppy portrait? It was time to deliver it. French River was the first stop on my northern adventure. It would have been easy to stay longer with that inspirational view and good company- catching up with an old high school friend, eating good food from the garden, and meeting the famous “Cajun” himself!
As I continued on towards Sudbury, I was once again disappointed to travel alone as I never have the opportunity to snap photos. There are so many amazing rock cuts along the highway I would love to paint; Those lines and swirls just beg me to paint them. Another time perhaps.
From Sudbury I was lucky to switch from solo-driver to passenger. We took our sweet time driving north with many pit stops along the way. The Serpent River Trading Post was incredible. We even met one of the artists there setting up for a show. Across the way I also discovered work by Jasyn Lucas, a First Nation’s Artist from Thompson, Manitoba. Magical work.
Chippewa Falls was the first breath taking stop on hwy 17. After driving for 4 hours through mostly forest and rock, the waterfall was a refreshing change of scenery. The painting below is a Group of Seven image, apparently this was one of their favorite places to stop and paint.
We made it to our camp site at Agawa Bay. Just in time for a stunning sunset, we were able to set up before dark, and enjoy a fire and stars, and fall asleep to the peaceful lull of Lake Superior waves.
I must add, as soon as we arrived, and I saw how the light touched the calm water, I could see exactly how Harris captured this same light and water so many years ago. He had a gift for bringing forth the calm solitude of this lake (which I now know is also famous for it’s torrential storms).
When we awoke the next day it was grey. Rain started, and we decided to just keep driving north. We finally hit sun in Wawa. What a strange little town! Plopped there in the middle of nowhere. An isolated little community, charming in itself. Surrounded by lakes and rocks and trees. If you’re ever there check out “Young’s General Store” it’s full of great little gifts and souvenirs. They sell home-made dill pickles stewing right in the old oak bucket! Quite unique.
On our way back to camp we made a few stops while the sun was still with us. High Falls was breath-taking. By the time we were here, I knew my next series of paintings would be mostly water inspired (before the trip I had bought tons of new green paints for forest landscapes).
There was also a little sign at the falls, talking about the musician Glenn Gould. Wawa was one of his favourite escapes, a place he could travel to where no one knew him or recognized him or even cared who he was. Like many other artists, he found the north to be a place of solitude and inspiration.
As we continued south down 17 we were slowly returning to grey skies. At Old Woman Bay the rain held back. We stayed and enjoyed the vast view. A wedding was taking place on the beach. We had some lunch and walked around. What amazed me most here was the crystal clear water. So calm and clean.
Our final stop before camp was Katherine Cove. This reminded me of many famous Group of Seven paintings, although I’m unsure this was actually a place they painted. The rocks, trees, islands in the water, the reflections and variety of colour and landscape is an artists dream. If not for the rain, we would have stayed longer.
By the time we got back to camp it was raining again. We had a window of time to decide if we should stay or go. We wasted a bit more time, avoiding the inevitable pack up, by checking out the visitors center. Here I also discovered a few new artists: Jessie Buchanan and Paula Trus. Other then The Group of Seven I haven’t seen a lot of art inspired by Superior’s landscapes so it was refreshing to find a few new pieces.
In the end, with little time to decide, we packed up our sopping wet camp and hit the road back to Sudbury. It was a long haul, but I was grateful for the short time in this sacred place none-the-less. Fresh air, nature fix, visual inspiration, and motivation to paint.
This “Superior” Lake did not disappoint. It’s name is truly fitting. So blessed to live in this country. Now onto painting!
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