Monday, January 13, 2014

Painting the SHT: Castle Danger to Gooseberry Falls State Park and other paintings

Fall on the Gooseberry River, 8"x 10"
After a multi-year hiatus, my cousin and I revived our annual fall backpack trip.  It was nice to have company on the trail and the evenings, which are long in late October, passed by with campfire, Yukon Jack and cupcakes baked inside orange rinds.  Our intention had been to start at Lake Co. Rd 301 (which would have added 6 miles onto the overnight) but the bridge that crosses the Encampment River was out and the report was that a crossing would have been highly unlikely. We decided to base camp near Wolf Rock instead. I spent the first afternoon painting on the Ridge overlooking Crow Creek valley. The next day we hiked to Gooseberry State Park. I remember being surprised by the subtle beauty of the upper part of the Gooseberry.  It snaked along always with a sandbar at each turn and sometimes steep cliffs. I imagined it would be a perfect place to spend a warm August afternoon-lounging on the sandbars after floating in the current.  On the day I painted, however, floating the current certainly would have meant hypothermia. There wasn't much sun on this trip so I was fortunate to have a respectable light effect.

Another Beauty 8" x 10" Available

I've started a mini-series of paintings of the harbor in Grand Marais. Mostly by accident as there have been some really great light effects lately that have been hard to pass up.  Another Beauty was a mid November evening where the color was almost unbelievable.

Winter in Grand Marais, 8" x 10" Available

It's been a great winter so far and the harbor has had ice in it for most of that time.  The ice usually conforms to the whims of the winds and if there is a good north wind it can often blow out to sea but, possibly because of the "polar vortex", it seems to have frozen enough not to be pushed out of the harbor. Winter in Grand Marais was painted on a day of snow in mid to late December. I was able to stand out of the falling snow on the deck of the Grand Marais Trading Post. Thanks Eric!

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Monday, October 28, 2013

The Plunge

The Plunge 12" x 16"
This is another view from along the Superior Hiking Trail atop Moose Mountain at Lutsen Mountain Ski Resort. I came here because I discovered this location the following year on my hike through this section of trail and the view is incredible.  The thought that kept going through my mind was how much this area reminds me of big western views. Obviously we don't have the snow covered "14-ers" in the back ground but we certainly have the big air. And the color. Holy cow the color! This painting doesn't even come close to how crazy the color was. Next time I'm taking a panoramic canvas because the scene continues off the left side of this canvas another 120 degrees! All reds and oranges.

Another thought that kept going through my head was the namesake of this painting. The Plunge is the name of one of the ski runs at Lutsen Mountain and it is not an exaggeration. I'm not an alpine skier so I don't know how many black diamonds this route holds but it's a 45 degree incline until you hit the lip and then it probably comes in around a 60 degree incline.  Yep! This is a SA-WEET spot!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Color Chaser

Gunflint Fall, 11 x 7

I've been painting the fall colors pretty hard this season. In the past I've always made sure to get a painting or two under  my belt before the leaves fall and I've gotten some good paintings but I've always felt like I let the season get away from me. It's a fleeting one after all.  This year I came up with a "hit list" of scenes I wanted to paint: scenes with big views and lots of air, scenes that were closer to or actually of Grand Marais, scenes with a water element to it and scenes of the Gunflint Trail.

If you haven't been there, make sure to put the Gunflint Trail on your Minnesota Bucket List because it's amazing and wild and beautiful and changing.  It's a cliched statement of the obvious but I have to say it: It's alive! What's even more amazing is how some of the oldest rock on the planet can make you feel alive!  Especially from a painters perspective. The scenes are endless. They are vast and they are intimate.  Places where the whisper becomes a bang and then cocoons you in its stillness.  If Tom Thomson and his cronies were painting today I could tell you where to find them: on the Gunflint Trail. Most likely around Larch Creek as there are copious rock outcroppings to summit for panoramic views. I try channel them every time I paint there because while the Gunflint is beautiful it's also rugged and rugged beauty can be hard to harness.  I dedicate this painting to the Group of Seven and crew. To their boot soles and canoe paddles and the paths they blazed for us to the beautiful amongst the wild.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Enger Tower to The Rose Garden, 3.8 miles

Height of Summer 12 x 16

Part of the Superior Hiking Trail winds through the city of Duluth, MN so as a change of pace I decided to do a couple of day hikes on a couple of sections.  Part of that pace change was that because there is no camping I didn't need to carry a tent etc. so I could carry my French easel and also have some larger canvas's than the usual 8 x 10 size.  Height of Summer was painted during my hike from Enger Tower to the Rose Garden.  The trail winds its way down through neighbor hoods and comes out on the Lake Walk near Bay Front Park.  I love when these huge thunder heads develop and how amazingly gigantic they are particularly when they dwarf the industrial landscape.  I also love the fact that this nationally recognized hiking trail has included the city as part of its "curriculum vitae".  I also did the section from Martin Rd to the Rose Garden (7.6 miles) on a really hot day and I must admit, it was quite nice to pop out of  Chester Creek and into the Burrito Union restaurant for a cold beer and a two fisted Fat Capitalist!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Artistic Trails at the Midwest Mountaineering Outdoor Adventure Expo
Last summer I completed 74 miles of the 277 mile long Superior Hiking Trail. I'll be giving a presentation at the Midwest Mountaineering Spring Expo in Minneapolis talking about some of the 26 paintings I started last season.  I'll also give a bit of a preview on what sections I'll be hiking this summer.   This is the presentation description:
In the spring of 2011 Neil Sherman decided to hike the entire Superior Hiking Trail, a section at a time, and do paintings of it along the way.  He outfitted his backpack with a small paint box, canvas’ and some oatmeal and hit the trail.  His goal was to capture the “personality” of the trail and the wilderness it traverses.  This past year Sherman hiked 74 miles of the 277 mile long trail and started 26 paintings with scenes ranging from a storm whipped birch tree atop the bluffs over Spruce Creek to a quiet bug free morning along Boney’s Meadow.
Come see the stories of the trail in paint and hear about plans for season two of painting the SHT.

The presentation is Saturday, April 28th,  4:45pm,  at U of M – Hanson Hall, Room 102
Follow this link for more info:  Outdoor Adventure Expo Programs

Monday, October 3, 2011

Caribou Lake to Cascade River State Park. 11.5 miles-Day 1, August 24

"Blustery" 8" x 10"
For some reason I started off on this section of trail not feeling very enthusiastic about the hike. I'm not sure why. Possibly the routine was getting boring: pack up, hike in, paint, eat, sleep, paint, hike out, home.  But as soon as I got to the East side of Agnes Lake (about a mile in from the trail head) I felt the excitement of the trail coming back. It was a new section that held the promise of some good vistas.  The day started off sunny and really windy.  Lured by the possibility of long views along the ridge of the Sawtooth Mountains, I passed up an interesting beaver pond but made a note on my map that it would be a cool spot to visit again with paint and brush.

I reached the ridge line and was hoping for that glorious vista with the perfect spot to set up my pochade box (roomy and protected from the elements). But this is wilderness, not a highway turn out, and while I was aware I was hoofing along the lip of an expansive forest the clear view I was looking for hadn't materialize. I thought maybe a painting of dense foreground trees with the hint of distant lands would be ok but I knew there had to be at least a meager overlook somewhere.  It wasn't till I was almost to Spruce Creek that the woods opened up a bit.  It was about one o'clock and the clouds had rolled in when I settled on a little outcrop with an semi-obstructed view.  The tiny birch tree in front of me was getting whipped pretty good by the wind and I decided that it would make a good testimonial of the day. Its spitted rain a bit but not enough that it interfered with the paint.

After painting, I hiked the short trail to Spruce Creek camp, set up my tent and ate dinner. By 4 o'clock the sky started to break and I went back up to the same spot to paint the clouds rolling through. It was one of those situations where  I could have painted a new painting every 15 minutes because the light effect changed that fast. I'll have to carry extra painting panels in the future because I could have used them all in this one evening. As it was, I stayed with the first light effect and saved the other two panels for the next day of the trip.
This view is from the same location as
"Blustery" looking just right of the tiny birch

Friday, August 5, 2011

Back Blog

"The Tombolo" 8 x 10
Well, I've been off the trail sense July 4th. Primarily due to prior obligations: the Grand Marais Arts Festival and the Door County Plein Air Festival were back to back to back weekends.  But I've got some back log blogging to do, so lets get caught up.

Kadunce River to Judge C.R. Magney State Park to my house.
10 1/2 miles
     I've been keeping my hiking around the Grand Marais area only because it is convenient to find someone who can either pick me up at the end of my jaunt or discharge me at the beginning of the section. I chose this section because I could literally hike home, my house being only a half mile from Judge Magney State Park.  My good friends Amy and David agreed to drive my truck back to my house (and if you are not familiar with my truck and its age this is asking a lot). They lived to tell the tale.

"Lake Walk, Evening" 8 x 10
THE LAKE WALK.  This section has a beautiful stretch where you are hiking directly on the Lake Superior shoreline. It also holds one of my favorite painting locations: the tombolo. The tombolo is a deposition landform in which an island is attached to the mainland by a narrow piece of land such as a spit or bar. Once attached, the island is then known as a tied island.  This particular landmass, no matter what angle I look at it, has such an interesting shape that I keep returning to paint it.  Its especially strong when its in silhouette or has a raking light on it.  In winter it has wonderful sheets of ice that form carrying beautiful aquamarine colors.  It has also become an interesting measuring stick for lake levels with low water levels allowing easy, dry access to the top of the tombolo while higher water levels require some rolling up of the pant legs.

TECH NOTES.  I'm trying to keep my pack as light as possible to avoid hernia's, blown knees and a strained back, so before the first outing I weighed everything.  My pack, empty, weighs 6 pounds; sleeping bag: 2.5lbs; sleeping pad: 2lbs; sketch book: 14.5 oz; pencil: .5oz.; pochade box-empty: 2lbs.(early landscape painters would often paint rough, quick sketches, a pochade, on location as reference for larger studio paintings. My pochade box holds an 8" x 10" panel). 8" x 10" panel: 4 oz.; #2-#12 Raphael 359 paint brush: .5 oz. each; paint (most of the tubes I had were about half full but varied) 1 oz. to 2.5 oz.; 100ml of a 200ml tube of flake white: 12.5 oz.; 10 business cards: virtually weightless. I'll carry more.

My initial palette included black, white, cadmium yellow light, cad. yellow, cad. red, alizarin crimson, manganese blue and ultramarine blue. I've sense added cad. orange and cobalt blue with the rational that the convenience of these extra colors out weighed (no pun intended) the extra 3oz. of weight added to the pack.
Choosing Brushes and a Trail Section