I have always been fascinated by herons. Especially by their huge sweeping wings and the curve of their long necks as they fly straight above the water, coming to rest only to strike an equally majestic pose amid the fallen trees and branches along the shore. We are fortunate to have several herons on our lake and I although I always enjoy watching them in flight, I think my favorite heron sighting was at the end of the lake down by the beaver dams. A heron had stopped to rest and had chosen the largest beaver dam to perch on. From there he looked down the length of the lake a if he were King of Grass Lake...maybe he is.
I have painted a few heron pictures over the years; the first two in colored pencil, the third in silk fabric dye and the last two in watercolor. Early Riser began as a watercolor demonstration for Healthy Kids Day at the Y. I was part of the "entertainment" in the Arts Studio. I had started with a light sketch of the heron and the fallen tree. Then I got my paper (300 wt. cold press) sloppy wet and just let my colors run and flow. I was working with the idea of early morning colors, the reds, yellows and pinks that you find in the sky and bouncing off the water as the sun is rising.
I left much of the background vegetation as soft shapes without detail to lend a misty morning quality to the picture. And also of course to keep the emphasis on my focal point: the heron. The heron is just beginning to take flight, beginning another day on the lake. The details on the heron, fallen tree and background trees were all added later in my studio when the paper had dried. I rewet the paper occasionally to keep edges soft in some areas.
This picture has been described as having a magical quality, probably due to the luminous colors. To me, herons are a bit magical anyway. On the day we first saw the camp it was a cold, gray dreary early April day, around 5:00 pm, just beginning to lose what little light we had on that rainy day. As I stood on the dock looking at the lake with chunks of ice still bobbing in the water, I wondered "should we buy this place?" A heron flew past me, in slow motion. I was sold.