Thursday, July 11, 2013

COPA Painting Retreat 2013, Cuyahoga National Park

Earlier this spring, I asked the members of my local plein air group, COPA (Central Ohio Plein Air), if anyone would like to do a little retreat to Ohio's only national park. I am a big nature gal, and for some reason, I have never visited this park. I got four other artists' commitment to join me for a retreat at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

I researched some of the area's lodging and found that the park offers an historic house for rentals.The Stanford House is available for individuals or a large group. It offers nine bedrooms with beds for up to 31 people. Most of the rooms have really comfortable bunk beds made with reclaimed wood. Upstairs, there are two bathrooms (men's and ladies') which all the rooms upstairs share. On the first floor, there is a handicapped accessible suite with a full bath. There is a large living room and a large dining room and full kitchen.

This will be a long, picture heavy post.

Below is my room, that was priced at $65 a night. But if you shared this with 2 other people, that would be an even better deal by dividing that cost by 3. Notice the two fans? Yea, no AC and it was HOT and humid this week. YIKES. And only one of these two windows opened. Not that it would have helped much. That first night, it was miserably sticky and we had more severe thunderstorms come through the night. I'm pretty sensitive to hot weather.

We were lucky that the first night, our group were the only boarders. Two of our members brought their spouses, so we had a group of seven.

We painted right on the grounds a couple times, but there was more to see in the area.

  We all drove our own vehicles, even though it was less than a 2 hour drive from home. We all wanted to be able to bring lots of art supplies! Tuesday around noon, Marianne, Joan, Norman and I met at the town Boston which was near the Stanford house. The Boston Store Visitor Center is along the Ohio Erie Canal towpath and has some displays of the history of the area. There was a neat old gas station right beside the store. It is a gallery but only open on Sundays. Marianne decided to paint a closeup of the colorful gas pumps and the view down the road. Joan setup her easel on the porch of the store and painted a view looking east down the road.

I decided to stand across the road, and paint the gas station, but even though I was in the shade I got overheated pretty quickly. The weather has been very humid in Ohio with temps in the mid-90's. We've had 19 days of rain, so the atmosphere was pretty 'soupy' and lots of gnats. I didn't get far with my painting and ended up wiping it out. I packed up my stuff in the car, and sat in the rocker beside Joan. Soon after, Bill and Eloise arrived. We all relaxed for a bit until the check in time at the house.

Once most of us were checked in and explored the grounds at the house, Jim arrived. We then all drove into the nearby town of Peninsula to go to dinner at Fisher's Family restaurant. As soon as we got seated, the sky opened up and poured the whole time we ate. We had a pretty good meal, then we drove around the corner to see the train depot and several of the old locks of the canal system. The towpath trail goes from way north near Cleveland, way south of Akron. You can ride the CVSR (Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad) most of that way too, and you can flag down the train for them to stop and pick up you and your bike along the way.

 Here are some pics of the Cuyahoga river at Peninsula already swollen from numerous rains, and the area around the towpath trail and locks.

We headed back to the house, and spent some time out at the picnic tables doing some quick paintings (pics are shown above with the other house photos).
 Notice all those bikes near the barn? That evening, the park was busing in 60 intercity kids from Cleveland and Akron, to let them ride bikes on the towpath trail which was a 1/4 mile from the house. Because of the storms, it ended up being cancelled.

I painted a tiny 4x6 pastel on my black gesso/pumice coated paper.
On Wednesday morning, we went back to Peninsula and spread out around the train station area to paint. I found this view and the painted the following painting. It really isn't finished, but I am happy with my composition.

After we had some lunch, we headed out to see Brandywine Falls. This is normally a pretty 'bridal veil' type falls, but because of the constant rain, it was a torrent! Very loud and powerful. Here is a link to my video (with sound!) of the falls:

Marianne and Jim decided to try to paint the scene. It was pretty dark down on the lower platform but they did an excellent job capturing the scene. I have pictures below of them (Marianne in the blue shirt to the lower right, Jim is beside her, but he blends into the foliage), but not their paintings. Joan decided to paint some of the trees along the boardwalk.

While they were painting, Bill, Eloise, and I decided to go investigate the other sites that I wanted to see. We first headed up to the Brecksville Station. The scene here is widely photographed and was recently the site where some guys were plotting to blow up the tall highway bridge as a terrorist scheme, but was thwarted before it happened.

From there, we headed south to find the Everett Covered bridge. Along the way, there were numerous detours because of high water. When we found the bridge parking lot, we decided not to even walk back to investigate due to the swollen creeks. So then we drove over to Kendall Lake. This is a nice lake with an interesting picnic shelter overlooking the water. Again, the water was really high and muddy, and lots of Canada geese. Not interesting enough to paint!

By this time about 2 pm, the sky was getting dark again. We headed back to the Falls to drop off Bill and Eloise to their car as they were heading back home. I bid them goodbye and took a few pics of the flowers around the parking lots and headed back to the house.

I arrived at the house just after Jim and Marianne arrived. The park worker for the Stanford house told us that the big weather front coming across Ohio was very close and the park officials demanded that everyone take cover as there were tornado warnings. The worker directed us all to the cellar of the house. Not a 'basement', mind you, but an old, smelly creepy damp dirt floored cellar! There were a few light bulbs out and mysteriously, one bulb flickered and kept going on and off! OOhhhh! There was no place to sit, so Marianne and I sat down on the dirty stairs and waited. I had my iPad mini, and we kept checking the weather maps. I think we hung out for about 25 minutes and once we didn't hear the pounding rain anymore, we headed up to take a look. The sky was a bit lighter and the air was definitely cooler. Ahhhhh. Another park worker came and said there were lots of trees down over some of the roads, and of course, much more flooding!

Once things cleared out, we went out and painted on the grounds again. I did a 5x7 oil of this little brick building.

Joan and her husband had gone home shortly after Bill and Eloise. It was just Marianne, Jim and I, and we had hoped that we would have the whole house to ourselves once again! But unfortunately later, a young couple from Wyoming came in, with FIVE young kids in tow. They rented one of the rooms that had three sets of bunk beds. What a bargain for a young family.

Although the weather had changed, the house was still very hot. I slept a bit better, but I woke up about 5:30am feeling pretty rough. I am used to a queen size bed, and when you sleep in a twin, you always feel like you have to stay rigid so you don't fall out! I woke with really stiff shoulders and sore ankles from the heat. We had intended on painting in Peninsula again today before heading back home in the afternoon. At 6am, I decided that there was no reason to make myself more miserable than I already was. I tend to want to push myself too far just to keep up with the others. I knew my heart wouldn't be in another painting, so I decided to head back home about 6:30am. And look at the beautiful sunrise that I found just a couple miles down the road! That structure is the supports for the Ohio Turnpike.

Jim and Marianne had planned on painting some flower gardens in front of some Victorian homes in Peninsula. Can't wait to see what they painted!

I stopped on the way home for some breakfast, and then was in my own bed by 9:15am for a power nap! I took the rest of the day easy and went to get a pedicure!

The retreat was pretty fun! Too bad the weather didn't cooperate, but I think all the others were happy they came. Maybe I'll organize another next year!