26" x 35.6"
Lake Superior bedrock is a tough stone. I’m always surprised at the power of water to break it down. Having lived in Florida for years, I’m aware of the power of wind driven water during floods and hurricanes. But water also has a quiet power that I thought about when I came across a granite wall while hiking the North Shore of Lake Superior in Cascade River State Park. Over thousands of years the rushing stream has worn down the rocks in the river, leaving them well rounded.
Another aspect of water’s quiet power is when water teams up with plants to accelerate the breaksown of rock faces. Water seeps into the cracks in the rocks. And when it freezes, water expands, splitting even the hardest stone. Tree and shrub roots penetrate cracks following the water and helping water fill the fissures. Water also teams up with plants that lack roots, like mosses and lichen, that can disolve stone with acid, a process known as chemical weathering.
Plants are the winners in this process, as you can see in this painting. On this one rockface live many of the most common flora of the Northern forest: Red Spruce (Picea rubens), Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis), Moose Wood (Acer pensylvanicum), as well as ferns, lichens, and mosses. Many of the saplings growing in the cracks ran out of room and died out, as witnessed by all the dead wood. But others soon take their place. This process is measured in millenia.
I paint with painting knives, which resemble little spatulas. It was a challenge to make the moss look soft and the rock look hard. In places I had to use the technique of scumbling, painting the first layer with lots of texture and then running over the dried, textured layer with another color.