By mid August a red tail hawk can land and sit at the apex of our fifty foot Norway spruce and get no hassle from the robins and blue jays that would have set off a major alarm back in June. The hawk looks comfortable up there in the early sun, patiently scoping the grounds for his morning meal. I once decided to climb all five of our Norway spruces myself. I could only make it about two thirds of the way to the top of any of them before dense branches made the ascent impassable. Still, I was impressed with the view. I can only imagine how it must feel to be a red tail hawk sitting up there on top of the world.
That is a view that I wish I had of the Fox River. Even if I climbed a tree growing up on one of the river’s bluffs I could never haul my easel up there and paint what I see. I suppose I could hire an airplane or have some photographs made from a drone, but what is the fun of copying from pictures? I want to be there, in the landscape itself. This winter when the leaves are down I’ll be able to look down from a vantage at Dayton Bluffs and paint the river winding along below me.
Meanwhile my perspective is earthbound. Or, as it was this morning, water-bound. I’ve been painting from my canoe. If I’m on the river by 5:30 I have plenty of light for paddling and time enough to reach my destination as the sun comes up. Sitting in my canoe I’m only a few feet above the water surface and my horizon line is low. I feel connected, attached to the river. I can get out beyond the overhanging trees that would block the view if I stood on shore. I can paddle into shallow backwaters, tie up to tree snags, and claim a view shared by few others.
Perhaps that is my strategy while, unlike the hawk, I’m tied to the horizontal. He seeks a unique perspective from on high. I must find it below.
Written by Joel Sheesley,
Artist-In-Residence for the Fox River Initiative's Art of the Fox Program