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Morning at Cooper Marsh

September 19, 2017

Cooper Marsh Conservation Area is a little over an hour’s drive from Montreal. Just over the provincial border into Ontario. You’re not too far from the US – the nearby town of Cornwall has a bridge crossing to upstate New York.

The park is open all year round, and is free (with optional donation).

You’ll find a visitors center with basic facilities: washrooms, picnic tables, vending drinks, but no food – though you’re less than 10 min from the town of South Lancaster, with the usual roadside attractions.

You’ll also meet a friendly docent who can give you an orientation. They’ll tell you about a pair of boardwalks (East or West) that will each take you a short 1 km-ish walk over the lush wetlands. It’s a rustling sea of tall grasses and water-plants, and home to a tremendous variety of birds. The rockstars being Grey Herons and some kind of falcons. There are wooden sheds that serve as bird blinds, if you’re so inclined to wait it out and see the wild life up close.

We did see an ermine, which was pretty cool. And there are supposed to be beavers, but they’re in an area that’s flooded for now, so out of reach of casual walkers.

I had brought some random paper with me – on a mission to use up some old pads I have in the studio. Big mistake! This was cheap machine made cellulose paper – and boy was it TERRIBLE. We’re always telling people not to use student grade stuff, but you forget why.

It’s like painting on butcher paper. It doesn’t absorb the pigment. Color comes out weak and scrubby looking. There aren’t any long fibers for color to creep along. It just feels plasticky. In open areas here you can see an icky mechanical texture, like a cheap canvas print. Not pleasant to work on at all.

I suppose, being out in the early AM humidity I couldn’t totally hate the lack of detail I was getting.

Those textured bands of color are masses of bushy grasses. I wouldn’t want to try to actually paint the millions of tiny grass blades. I think a distant foggy impression is the better part of valor.

Later in the day the sun came out, giving me a more predictable watercolor experience.

If you walk out on the non-boardwalk paths – it’s a long walk inside a trench of trees and tall grasses. But eventually you come to a lookout platform where you can see the grasslands gradually becoming open water. Here you’ll see jumping fish, shore birds and turtles. And zillions of frogs along the way.


15 Comments leave one →
  1. DeLorres Kapluck permalink
    September 19, 2017 1:41 PM

    As a birder and a sketcher this place sounds amazing to me. Thanks for the post. Next time I’m around New York State I’m going to look it up.

  2. September 19, 2017 1:57 PM

    Hey Marc! I agree, never use cheap paper because watercolour is all about the paper! HOWEVER… your paintings look FANTASTIC!!!
    Happy Painting Marc.

  3. September 19, 2017 1:59 PM

    Thank you for sharing!

  4. Bernadette permalink
    September 19, 2017 2:23 PM

    I too have used a poor grade of paper to paint a watercolor and was very disappointed vowing never to do that again. But, had you not mentioned your frustration with poor paper, I would never have guessed. The paintings are….Wow! Soon as I opened your email that is what I said aloud. In the hand of a master, great results will occur no matter the supplies. Just imagine how much more beautiful had your choice of papers been better! Wow!

  5. MarySusan Farmer permalink
    September 19, 2017 3:34 PM

    My immediate thought, before I read about the poor-quality paper, was “This is how watercolor should be; free-flowing, letting the paints, water, and paper work together to create stunning results!” You are indeed a Master of this medium! Thanks! MSF

  6. Rita permalink
    September 19, 2017 3:49 PM

    Marc…I really really really like the painting you did when the sun came out. Takes my breath away. You nailed the color, the sky, exactly enough detail but not too much, lots of white, a perfect “flow”. If ever I did one like this, I think I would shout from the hilltops and call it my Crowing Glory! Just gorgeous. Did I tell you I REALLY like it? And I’m assuming you did it without laboring. You are a gifted artist for sure.

  7. Dottie permalink
    September 19, 2017 4:42 PM

    The paper may have been icky, but you certainly use it to best advantage. Wonderful varied greens!

  8. September 19, 2017 5:23 PM

    Mark, Ha!! Never would have guessed you had paper problems … you make it look so easy. On my computer they all look good. As always, thanks for sharing.

  9. Pam Smith permalink
    September 19, 2017 7:35 PM

    Despite of the inferior paper, your paintings are wonderful. Love them!

  10. Francisco permalink
    September 19, 2017 8:37 PM

    so nice. Goes to show, it’s not the tools!!

  11. joantav permalink
    September 19, 2017 9:16 PM

    This looks like a wonderful place to paint. I also wouldn’t have guessed you had problems with the paper. The center one just looks like it is super loose. You used it well!

  12. glacken2016 permalink
    September 19, 2017 9:51 PM

    Beautiful! I especially love the third one with all of its glorious colors! Makes me want to go there and paint too!

  13. September 20, 2017 7:29 PM

    Sometimes when I struggle with an faulty piece of paper, a slightly errant tube of paint (too much/little gum arabic), or some other issue … it can make me work or pay attention in a way that produces at least a few pieces that are interesting. Hopefully not too labored or overthought. Good post!


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