misty morning at French Lake
I am presently into week #2 of a 14 day artist in residence placement in Quetico Provincial Park about 2 hours west of Thunder Bay, Ontario just south of Highway 11.
artist studio at French lake
Quetico is the wilderness jewel of parks in Northwestern Ontario and it borders the state of Minnesota at its southern boundary. It is a vast stretch of pristine wilderness that encourages low impact camping and canoeing into the interior. I am doing my residency at Dawson Trail campgrounds in a small one room modern heated studio building on the shores of French Lake. Where I am situated is a bit private and removed from the general mass campground areas of Chippewa and Ojibwe. There are public beaches a little bit down ways on either side but I am separated by thick woods. The studio is accessible by 2 trails. One is called the artists path and runs between the beaches through the woods and allows the public access to the studio should they choose and if the artist feels comfortable having an open studio arrangement. The shorter trail extends down about 10 m (30 ft) from the road up on a rise north of the cabin. Artists from all over N. America have been using this space for several years now.
The program for the artist residency is titled Inspired by Quetico. It provides a waiver of camping and parking fees in exchange for the usage of the artist studio and a small campsite nearby with a large modern tent and fire pit for the artists use. The artist is required to contribute a piece of work to the park in exchange for the two week placement. They also are paid an honorarium of $300 towards cost of materials and framing.
Needless to say the landscape is quite stunning and encountering unique boreal woodland flora and fauna and witnessing incredibly beautiful sunsets makes this very inspiring indeed.
I am finding the solitude of this place very calming and it has put me in touch with nature on a level I don’t often get living in the city.
Back in 2010 I applied to the program and was accepted. However due to poor health that summer I decided it wasn’t the right time for me to do the residency. Earlier this year I reapplied and was accepted. A few dates were suggested as to when I might like to come to the park and knowing that the weather is generally ideal in early to mid Sept (late summer) I chose this time frame. The biting insects are pretty much over and the days are warm and the nights cool allowing for great star gazing and incredible sunsets.
Some of last weeks highlights included a full day of canoeing with a friend across French Lake and down along the Pickerel River at the south end of the lake. We explored the shore, did a little fishing for pickerel and pike (Walleye to you US folks), and took photos of flora and fauna for source material for new studies.
On Saturday Sept 7 I gave a workshop in drypoint on acrylic plate at the Log Cabin Education centre in the park. Participants were shown a demo and then created their own plates which were printed using Akua intaglio inks onto rag printmaking paper. It was well enjoyed by those who attended.
I am making good use this week of the studio facilities and have set up a small print studio on site. Yesterday was spent producing a quantity of etchings from a study of a canoe on a Quetico lake shore. This is not a new study but I had a solar plate etching from a few years back I thought I would print a few more from as it was an open edition. Once these are dry I will add in colour by hand with water based media such as thinned down acrylic inks or watercolour.