A few days ago I picked up a copy of a map of the James River by Richmond Times Dispatch artist Tom Roberts . The map focuses on highlights of the river around central Richmond, with information on plants and wildlife, as well as info on trails, parking, and scenic views. The cool thing about it is that it's printed on Tyvek, so it's waterproof! It's not, however, paint-proof, though it cleans off fairly easily ;-) I'm so glad to have a map like this made available, and I'm using it as a guide for a James River series of plein air paintings, as I find the opportunity. I painted this piece on location at a point along the river near a site called "The Wetlands":
I'd visited the Pony Pasture location that's nearby before, but not this particular point, and thought it seemed interesting on the map. Unfortunately The Wetlands weren't wet at all as I'd imagined them to be. I'm not sure what they're normally like, but we do really need some rain and there wasn't even a puddle in sight in this drought.
Undeterred, I continued down to the riverbank. The river was also very low (and as a result, mildly, er, "aromatic" depending on the wind shift.) But I became interested in the light and the diagonals of the trees and the rocks, as well as the twisted tree roots clinging to the river's edge; so I decided to give it a whirl.
I really enjoyed painting down by the James. There were herons, canadian geese, and lots of butterflies to keep me company. There was also the occaisional dog chasing flying sticks and a crew or two of kayakers paddling by. According to a "tidbit" on my map, the James represents the only white water that cuts through an urban area. We really are lucky to have it, and I hope we will continue to preserve and maintain it so that "regular folks" like me can have access to it and enjoy its natural beauty.
p.s: Local artists might be interested to know something I've heard from park manager Ralph White. There is a new guide to the James for painters and photographers that is scheduled to come out some time this fall.