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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.  

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