When good painting locations go bad

Carol’s set up of Durand Lake. Nice mackerel sky, heralding rain (correctly, as it turns out).

 I’ve painted at Durand-Eastman Park for years. I’ve painted on the beach, along Zoo Road, and most often on the embankment facing Durand and Eastman Lakes. These are steep-sided glacial fingerlings reaching back from the shore of Lake Ontario, separated from their mother lake by a narrow strip of land. 
This location is handicapped-accessible. It has picnic tables. It has parking. It had a Porta-Potty, and it’s always several degrees cooler than inland.
Speaking of skies, this was what we had at sunset. Not all that paintable, but interesting for having that fine spun cotton below the altocumulus layer. That Lake Ontario skyline is inexorable, however, and it is matched by an equally flat shoreline. If the clouds don’t cooperate, you have a whole lot of nothing.
With a little manipulation, one could create the illusion* of the stillness of the Adirondacks. Durand Lake seems to disappear through a twisting inlet that gives the impression of limitless possibility. A tree trunk curves fetchingly over the inlet and the sun would often etch that line in lovely contrast to the still, golden water below.
So when Carol Thiel and I were kicking around ideas for painting spots, it seemed like a reasonable option for a particularly gorgeous summer evening: limpid, luminous, neither hot nor cool, with ever-changing clouds. It held the promise of a great sunset.
That thud-thud-thud is the sound of jet-skies.
But what the heck happened to my reliable view? The tree that had once dangled fetchingly over the inlet was obscured by new growth. The forms of the lake-shore were overrun with undergrowth, monotonously green in color. The duckweed that usually provides a golden-chartreuse foil was in extremely short supply.
Carol painted it, and did a credible job of finding interest in the scene. Virginia and Lyn turned their backs on it and painted Lake Ontario instead. Now, there’s a thankless painting! The person who can find a composition on the Rochester shore of Lake Ontario—outside the harbors themselves—that’s anything other than a series of horizontal bands punctuated by scrubby trees wins a prize: a freeze-pop in your choice of colors.
One thing we are never in short supply of here in Rochester is trees, so Catherine was wise to default to drawing them. (This park is home to Slavin Arboretum, which is an awfully interesting tree collection.)
And, if you can believe it, they took away the Porta-Potty.  And as sunset moved in, so did a dense, obscuring cloud cover. I really should complain to the city.

“We haven’t come across a Lock 32 this year,” said Catherine, by which she meant that we hadn’t found a painting location that mesmerized us. It must be easily accessible from the city, it must be handicapped-accessible, it must have a bathroom, and it must be interesting. I hate to reprise hits from the past, so I ask my Rochester friends: do you have any brilliant ideas?   
*Durand-Eastman is a particularly noisy park. The traffic on Lakeshore Drive is usually drowned out by the ever-present jet-skis rumbling along the lake. But paintings don’t have soundtracks, thankfully.

Join us in October, 2013 at Lakewatch Manor—which is selling out fast—or let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in 2014. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops!
Carol Douglas

About Carol Douglas

Carol L. Douglas is a painter who lives, works and teaches in Rockport, ME. Her annual workshop will again be held on the Schoodic Peninsula in beautiful Acadia National Park, from August 6-11, 2017. Visit www.watch-me-paint.com/ for more information.