Glacier National Park was so named because it is a prime example of the affect of glaciation. The park can be summed up in three words: Sedimentation, uplift and glaciation. The rock in Glacier is some of the oldest in the world. I was surprised to learn that there are no fossils in the rock even though they are mostly sedimentary. That is a testament to how old the rick is…it is older than most life on the planet. The only known fossils found in the park are of stromatolites, ancient colonies of bacteria.
In 1850, the area that is now Glacier National Park had over 150 glaciers. When Glacier National Park was created in 1910, there were still over 100 glaciers. Today, just over 100 years later, the number has shrunk to just over 20 and they are melting so fast it is estimated they could be gone as soon as 2020 and by 2030 at the latest.
Akaiyan Lake and Feather Woman Lake are known as “glacial tarns”. Glacial tarns are remnants of where the Sperry Glacier once carved out rocks thousands of years ago. The unique characteristic turquoise color is caused by rock flour, the fine particulate suspended in the water from the grinding of rock by the glaciers. It is common to see this affect in many of Glacier’s lakes and stream, but within 20-30 years of the glaciers’ demise, the particulate, no longer been resupplied by glaciation, will settle and the beautiful colors of the lakes will disappear into regular blue waters. Which is sad, because look at that color…like WOW!
I was completely entranced by these lakes. They were sooooo gorgeous; the ice floating in the water, the refection of the snow and the color of the water. I am looking forward to doing a series of larger canvas of the lakes in the studio this winter.
After I finished this painting at Akaiyan Lake I headed down to the area called the “Rock Garden” At a large terminal moraine, glaciers advanced and melted for a few hundred years at exactly the same rate, dumping their payload in one spot. The materials in a moraine tend to be of every size and shape — ice is indiscriminate about what it can carry. These materials are called “till”. Some “erratic” rocks in moraines are the size of houses. Meltwater, depending on its speed, sorts and rounds materials into layers of boulders, cobbles, pebbles, gravel, sand, silt or clay, in descending order of speed. This “outwash” forms below the terminal end of an alpine glacier. I am no expert, but I think that this is what happened in this area. It is really spectacular and my painting really didn’t do it justice. I am looking forward to making another attempt at it this winter in the studio.
Deluged with an overwhelming amount of information, the plein air painter must decide what is important, what captivates them concerning the subject…and how best to communicate that on canvas. One must also deal with rapidly changing light, weather, wind, insects, suitable places to set up, lack of privacy, unexpected interruptions, equipment, supplies…and all the technical stuff: drawing, composition, values, color, and paint application…all this within two hours or less, in most cases.
While a plein air painting may not be particularly successful in the field it makes an excellent starting point for a larger scale and more resolved painting in the studio. My experiences at the chalet will inform and ground these studio pieces in a profound way. Often when I am outside painting plein air the painting is complete in and of itself…not a study in other words, but a painting that is intended to be a finished statement. At other times, I’m out making studies. I see the plein air studies as my way of building a mental catalog and visual vocabulary of what the landscape has to offer us in the way of color, design, texture, drama, mood, emotion, joy, beauty and all of the other adjectives we attach to the landscape.