believe in the truth of the adage that there are "diamonds in our own backyards."
To live it instead of just talking about it, we made the short trip to paint
the Mississippi River near St. Louis, Mo. just a few hours from our door. We
have always been inspired by rivers big and small. Whether the subject is
interesting wildlife or fabulous light or the raw power of nature, there is
always something great to see and paint along them. Over the years, we have
returned to these rivers to attempt to capture that special something they
possess. The Mississippi always exceeds our expectations.
|Ann, Cella, and I overlooking the Mississippi River
during a plein air painting session.
Our journey up the Mississippi got started at a
little park on the northern shore of the river - at the spot where the Missouri
River joins it. It is also the place where Lewis and Clark began their
adventurous exploration of the American West, paddling hard upstream against
the mighty current.
Our ultimate destination was the 300-foot high limestone
bluffs which sit majestically over the river at the picturesque little village
of Elsah, Illinois, former summer home of the painter, poet and teacher
Frederick Oakes Sylvester (1869 - 1915). Sylvester was an important figure in
American art at the end of the 19th century and became a major artistic
influence in the Midwest. He loved to paint the river en plein air, standing
somewhere above his house in Elsah, and he encouraged his students to do the
same. His love of these bluffs and the river were expressed eloquently in his
illustrated book of poems, The Great River, circa1911. His influence was in no
small way responsible for the siting among those bluffs of the Principia
|The Mississippi by Frederick Oakes Sylvester, landscape painting.
We were familiar with Sylvester's wonderful
landscape paintings of the Mississippi river and the bluffs, (see Poet Painter of the Mississippi,
Perspectives No. 51 on The Artist's Road) and wanted to see for
ourselves if the reality bore any resemblance to his artistic evocations.
Although the Principia campus is not open to the general public, we were lucky
to have help with gaining access through an old friend and architect, John
Guenther, who has helped design several buildings for the college and knows the
campus well. John showed us the trails which led to the best river views. As we
gained the heights we knew immediately that we had found what we were looking
for. Sylvester had not exaggerated - the awesome view has all the important
elements that contribute to great paintings. We set up quickly and with
Sylvester's landmark work in our minds, spent a remarkable day painting two
spectacular bird's eye views from the top of the bluffs.
|Above the Mississippi at Principia by John Hulsey, 9 x 12, oil painting.
Don't miss the step-by-step progression of
those plein air paintings and the complete story of our trip up the
Painting Journey Along the Mighty Mississippi River
only at The Artists Road.
And don't miss this special video demonstration and watch the PBS interview of John as he
paints the eagle's eye view of the Mississippi River from the high bluffs.
--John and Ann