Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Iceland: Ash and Ice

Vatnajökull Glacier pokes through masses of volcanic rock.
Watercolour, 22 x 30 in. 2015
Hekla volcano dominates the landscape.  Its last eruption occurred in 2000.
Watercolour,  17½ x 30 in. 2015
Ashes from the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjökull stain the glacier black where ice has melted beneath.
Watercolour,  17½ x 30 in. 2015
Mist over Mount Esja, 11 x 14 in. 2015
Valley near Mosfellbær, watercolour, 11 x 14 in. 2015
One morning I was painting at Górvik cove when an arctic tern began fishing directly in front of me. This was the first time I had been so close to one of these great diving birds. It circled above the water and then took a plunging nose-dive into the water. The fish seemed to escape a half a dozen times before the tern was satisfied and flew off with its catch. The water was crystal clear and completely still.  Two arctic loons appeared in the distance, their heads bobbing at the water's surface. I recognized their eerie calls, although the sound was slightly different from the common loons of Eastern Canada.  About twenty minutes later the breeze began, rippling the water and changing the aspect of the landscape. 

The contrast between dark volcanic ash and white ice fascinates.  Mount Hekla lurks innocently behind fields of lupins, yet it is one of Iceland's most active volcanoes with over 20 eruptions since 874 AD. It is about three miles long and 5000 feet high.  

Watercolour has an immediacy that I returned to during my residency at Korpúlfsstađir. It was a last-minute decision to pack my watercolour supplies. These sketches record visual images and ideas quickly.  I have a large, round Chinese painting brush that helps me avoid extraneous details.  

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Iceland: Strokkur Geysir

Strokkur Geysir erupts every 8 to 10 minutes.

The plume of water rises 15 to 30 metres in a few seconds.
I had to back up to fit the whole plume in the photo frame.

The water recedes just as quickly as it rises!
 Little Geysir boils continuously.

The original Geysir hot spring is less active now, erupting about twice a year, but the nearby Strokkur Geysir enthrals crowds of tourists. There are other geysers and hot pools in the area, including basins of bubbling mud surrounded by crusts of yellow and red mineral deposits.  The Geysir Visitor Center includes eateries, souvenirs and beautiful (expensive) gifts as well as a gas station. 

Geothermal activity is ever-present as you travel around Iceland. Plumes of steam rise from hillsides with the occasional whiff of sulfur dioxide.  Geothermal swimming pools, heating plants and electricity-generating stations utilize the massive power that lies beneath the surface of the land. 

My new series of paintings and panels suggests some of this geological activity.  

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Iceland: Jökulsárlón Icebergs

The Breiđarmerkurjökull glacier calves icebergs in a spectacular lagoon.

Each iceberg is unique, taking its form from wherever it lay inside the glacier.

Aqua tints glow from the interior of the sculpted ice.

One of the boats adds scale to the scene.
Jökulsárlón is one of the most visited places in Iceland. Boats guide visitors between fantasically shaped icebergs in the glacial lagoon as the ice floats toward the sea. Each iceberg is unique in texture, coloration and form. Most seem architectural, with cave-like hollows and pointed spires. The ice glows turquoise and aquamarine from its depths. It is crystal clear, lacking bubbles. The great weight of the glacier presses layers of snow into perfect ice.  Dark streaks of volcanic ash appear randomly in some formations.

1000 year old crystal clear ice!