20 x 18 in | 50.8 x 45.7 cm
One of my favorite places to canoe is the Boundary Waters, a region of thousands of lakes and bogs that stretches north of the Great Lakes along the boundary between the United States and Canada. Outcrops such as you see in this painting are among the oldest rocks in North America. They are actually the bottoms of very large volcanic mountains (about 39,000 ft or 12,000 meters) that were the first rocks to rise out of the sea in North America, dating back to the Precambrian Era (between 4.5 billion and 540 million years ago). Over the millennia the younger rocks at the tops of the volcanoes were eroded away until the area became a plain of relatively low relief consisting of ancient bedrock. This bedrock is called the Canadian Shield or Precambrian Shield. I felt awed by the age of these rocks.
From the artistic perspective I was grateful for this bare outcrop from which I could see over the lake. In this relatively flat region there are few vistas, but here, where surfaces were scoured clean by glaciers, dense forests were not yet able to get a foothold. Only one small red maple and fir tree struggled to survive by exploiting a crevice in the bedrock. Red Maples (Acer rubrum) are one of my favorite northern subjects, especially in the fall when their leaves turn brilliant shades of red.
The low angle of the sun added to the drama of the composition by creating a high contrast between the sunlit surfaces and shadows of the rock. The setting sun was also responsible for the inky blue color of the water. The lake reflected the darkening sky above rather than the lighter sky at the horizon. Finally, it was a cool fall day, when there is little moisture in the air to tame the sharpness of the features.