A Gordon Henschel original painting.

A Brush with Henschel: Mountain music

Painting on site has always been my favourite way of working to gain new insights and inspiration.

Ah, spring!, the time of year when all that white stuff begins to transform itself into one of the most powerful forces in nature, water. Melting ever so slowly, almost imperceptibly, until it becomes a living, moving entity, free-falling off cliffs, sometimes for hundreds of metres, it make its way into the creeks and rivers that originally formed these mountain valleys. Onward and downward the pace increases, gaining momentum to make a dash for the sea where the warm Pacific winds eventually evaporate it to renew its endless cycle.

Of all of nature’s elements, water is by far the most underestimated. Simply taking it for granted, we hardly notice it as we drink it, bathe and swim in it, skate, ski and slide on it, harness it for power, build roads on it in the north, live inside of it if you are an Inuit hunter, love to live beside it for aesthetic reasons (Oh, for a cabin beside a lake!) and, last but not least, love to paint it if you are an artist.

I take it for granted as well. During one of my art shows, in which I was showing 25 paintings, a lady approached me and commented, “Did you realize there isn’t one painting in here that doesn’t have water in it?” She was right, much to my surprise!

Painting on site has always been my favourite way of working to gain new insights and inspiration. Painting beside a river in springtime is the ultimate pleasure. The murmur of the water is music to my ears, the sounds varying in pitch and intensity much like a symphony orchestra. On a warm day the flow can increase substantially as the day progresses and more runoff from the snow upstairs feeds the hungry river.

Painting beside a river is, nevertheless, not without its inherent problems. Animals also like the river and I often see deer coming down to drink and frolic while I am quietly working. So, what’s the problem? The symphony orchestra, enjoyable as it is, drowns out the sounds of larger animals approaching. More than once, bears wandering the shoreline spotted me before I noticed them. Thank goodness, ‘til now they were more frightened than I was and, with a sigh of relief watched them hightailing off into the forest. I do carry life insurance in my backpack in the form of a can of bear spray.

We won’t talk about cougars; I don’t want to go there! Needless to say I do take some precautions against these unpredictable predators by positioning myself so stalking me becomes more difficult, but I do realize that a sitting person can be a delectable temptation for a big pussycat. So, is painting on site worth the risk? You better believe it! There is nothing quite like sitting at the edge of a mountain stream on a warm spring day. If I didn’t like living on the edge, I wouldn’t be an artist!

Comments e-mail: ghenschel@shaw.ca, or website: www.henschel.ca

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