Blog reader J. Fullmer asked about the disaster I referred to a while ago on the posts called From Endor to Chelsea and White Umbrellas. To recap, my artist friend Chris Evans and my wife and I were up in the Catskills doing some plein air painting.
We staggered down the rocky banks of Kaaterskill Clove in search of a waterfall called Fawn’s Leap, a favorite motif of the early Hudson River School Painters. I found a good vista from the middle of the stream, where a flat rock the size of a kitchen table provided just enough space to set up my tripod, pochade box, and white umbrella.
As I worked, the water surged around me from several days of heavy rain. The painting was finished in time for lunch. I left everything set up and hopped across the boulders to join Chris and Jeanette for a sandwich and coffee.
Suddenly there came a blast of cold wind down the clove. I heard a shout: “It’s going over!”
I looked up to see the umbrella fill like a sail and carry the whole rig—tripod, brushes, palette, and painting— into the rapids. Thinking quickly, Jeanette grabbed the umbrella, which had broken free and was floating upside down, circling like a leaf in one of the side eddies. I stood astraddle two boulders to rescue a couple of the brushes as they drifted by. The rest of them had entered the main current and disappeared into the next set of rapids.
Chris fished out the tripod and intercepted the painting as it floated downstream. It was cruising half-submerged with the wet oil palette stuck against the backside of it. Amazingly, the painting suffered only minor damage from the water, and only a few thumb prints and scrapes where it had bounced against some boulders.
The only moral to this story is to take down the umbrella when you break for lunch!