Bridge Over Peaceful Water
Oil on Gessoed Panel
Saugahatchee Creek, Loachapoka
Alabama is a state of bridges. There is so much running water here that it seems you cannot drive more than a mile without crossing over a bridge. After a while most of us just don't notice them anymore.
Painters and bridges have had a love affair going back centuries. From the ornate bridges over the Sienne in Paris to the covered bridges of early America and on to the futuristic tangles of overpasses in major cities; they have all made it into paintings. Even the simplest bridge has beauty.
I wasn't looking for a bridge today. I went to Loachapoka first because its fun to say “I'm going to Lochapoka” and second it has all sorts of picturesque old buildings. Every fall they have a festival called “Syrup Sopping”. People come from all over to watch cane syrup being made in the old way, with mules turning a device that crushes the cane to get the juice which is boiled to make syrup. There are bands and reenactments and vendors and all sorts of possibilities for paintings.
This year, unfortunately, I was out of town for the event. My daughter Savannah had a horse show in Georgia. She got the champion ribbon both days. So I came back victoriously to the town after the “Syrup Sopping” to capture some of the spirit minus the festival.
There were dozens of possibilities for paintings! There is a great feed store called Fred's, some magnificent Victorian homes with a railway running right through it all. Still I couldn't find anything. I toured the back streets and again lots of great stuff, but nothing grabbed me. I told myself that I had 15 minutes to get inspired. I drove out of town and took the first right going north on a two-lane paved road. I knew the Saugahatchee was near and I also knew that this was a part of the creek that can be canoed, so I thought I might as well have a look.
After a few minutes I came to the bridge. Now the thing about bridges, especially newer highway bridges, is they don't look like they would be anything from the road. This bridge was no exception. It definitely couldn't be mistaken for the Pont Neuf. I pulled over and went down the embankment to have a look.
This was it. A clear stream meandered through large outcrops of bare rock, fall colors, and of course all the interesting structure that is the underside of a bridge. I went back to the Van to get my paints and I heard a truck pull up . I looked up to see Craig Gregson, my son's scoutmaster. He's a forester and was out to survey a tract of forest that was for sale. After a chat, I got to work.
I had Sully, my yellow lab with me. He's only a year and a half old, and very happy to go everywhere with me. I decided to let him off the lease while I painted. Suddenly all the tranquility vanished. He ran in and out of the creek , in and out of the woods, throwing himself back into the water all at about 60 mph. I wasn't going to get anything with that going on, so he went on the lease and assumed his role as companion and art critic.
It was just a little painting done on a panel I've had for 15 years. It is a sample of a tradition gesso and has the recipe on the back of the panel. I better copy it down because I really liked painting on it.