by Jan Kraus
Trilliums, where are the trilliums? We saw some on May 11th when Peter Heinz gave us a tour of Wilket Creek Ravine. It’s only ten days later, but surely there are still some around here somewhere. Peter, who has been leading ravine tours for many years, told us that he never gets tired of seeing how things in the ravine change from one week to the next. Trilliums are such beautiful flowers and I want to challenge myself to capture these iconic white blooms in watercolour. So today I’m paying extra attention to what has changed since I was here ten days ago, in addition to looking for trilliums.
In the ravine, the first flower I see is a delicate blue, and I join another visitor who is taking photographs of this unfamiliar lovely blue blossom. Next I see unassuming little blue forget-me-nots. Not a trillium in sight. But then the marvelous marsh marigolds jump out at me. They demand that I sit still and paint them. First lesson of the day: do NOT sit in direct sun even though it’s breezy and cool! In only fifteen minutes I’m sweating and getting eye strain from the blazing sun and from trying to paint flowers and leaves swaying in the breeze.
After lesson number one I move into the shade and gratefully button up my fleece jacket. I’ve become attached to a certain clump of rocks in a curve of Wilket Creek. I photograph it and sketch it from the same vantage point each time I come to the ravine. Today I sketch it in watercolour. The rocks and water surprise me. The water level is quite a bit lower than just ten days ago. The first time I noticed these rocks they were barely showing above the rushing water. Today the tops of the rocks are even dry. The colour of the rocks and the water appears very different than the last time I painted them. I see several changes at this spot and wonder how much the course of the creek will shift the next time we have a big rain.
While scanning the area for the still elusive trilliums, a small yellow flower catches my eye. I add this delicate little flower to my sketch book. Second lesson of the day: sketch or paint a flower’s leaves in greater detail. I have to rely on my photographs to identify my painting. Wildflowers of Ontario is a great website that allows me to identify this plant.
I hike further through the ravine, continuing my search for trilliums, all the while remembering Peter’s enthusiasm for noticing weekly changes in the area. Perhaps because I’ve now painted two different yellow flowers I’m seeing the colour yellow everywhere. The humble but bold dandelion captures my attention. Remembering lesson number one, I find a shady place to sit beside a clump of dandelions that are in full sun. I am amazed in the short time I spend painting the dandelions how many of the buds open up right before my eyes!
I never do find any trilliums, but I’m happy to include three of the yellow wildflowers of Wilket Creek Ravine to my sketchbook. Painting plein air is always a delightful learning adventure.