A Sublime Space

Plattekill Falls
Plattekill Falls

This past week I had the opportunity to paint some of my favorite subjects in the Catskills- waterfalls. There is something so sublime about falling water no matter where it is. That is why man has been fascinated with it since time immemorial. He has incorporated it into gardens and architecture and public squares. Just the sound of falling water transports the mind and the soul elsewhere, somewhere deep into our interior, creating a stage for contemplation.

As I hiked through the forest, I found myself fascinated and drawn by the sound of rushing water compelled to seek it out and bear witness to it’s awesome nature. There is something so pure about finding the falls deep in the woods. It feels like a sacred place where one should proceed only if one is in a proper state. Otherwise, the gods may look unkindly at you and instead of bestowing a blessing, one leaves with a curse.

As I set up to paint, teetering on rocks or perched like a bird between a tree and a fallen log, I found myself full of deep concentration. The all encompassing noise creating a bubble of isolation that made painting feel full and complete. As I focused on the falls I found that although they were rushing headlong over a cliff there was a feeling that they were simultaneously immobile. This immobility being the key to its sublimity -simultaneously a torrent and a pause. A place where oppositions unite or come together. Difficult to paint, yet containing all that one desires to paint- to have something immediate joined simultaneously to something more eternal. Even when I felt I could not take my image any further, I found it difficult to pull myself away- so transfixed I was by the space.

On one occasion while painting, a storm came up and rolled through the clove. I heard it coming and knew I would not be lucky enough to avoid it. And I was right. It came down in such a deluge that I was quickly soaked to the skin- an appropriately purifying rain. I thought surely my painting had not survived but a little work with a hair dryer back at my friends cabin, helped take most of the water off. Although the stretcher bars warped, the canvas itself remained intact.

The journey was a beautiful adventure into nature, an encounter rarely felt in our everyday lives. Although I returned to my daily routine, there is a place that remains timeless and I know where it is.

painting at Ashley Falls
painting at Ashley Falls

Author: Judith Reeve

For nearly 30 years I've developed my painting practice in the studio, building on what I leaned from my student days at the Lyme Academy of Fine Art. Along with my daily journey creating images which I write about here on this blog, I am also currently writing a book on the color practice of Robert Henri.

0 thoughts on “A Sublime Space”

  1. Was just looking at your landscape paintings on your web sight and what a treat to see three new waterfalls. They`re glorious! You captured the grandeur and hight of Kaaterskill Falls beautifully. They are all inspiring. I saw that you posted some new charcoal drawings to. They are wonderful to see. It`s great to be able to see your new work so easily.

  2. Judith, what a wonderful description of a waterfall “simultaneously a torrent and a pause” , a beautiful painting of Plattekill Falls and a wonderful description of your experience painting them. I am also fascinated by rushing water and love painting waterfalls and surf they are difficult to paint but so engrossing. Thanks for sharing your adventure your blogs are always thought provoking and I enjoy them very much.

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