The story behind "Night Paddle"

Last year, someone asked me if I'd ever been canoeing at night. I hadn't, and she described a magical experience she'd had, where it felt like she was paddling through the stars - which were both above her in the sky and all around her reflected in the lake. This sounded so enchanting that we planned our next camping trip with this goal in mind. Booked a campsite in Algonquin next to an "easy to canoe" lake (it was going to be pitch black after all!), booked a canoe rental overnight, and then packed up and headed out!

We got there, settled into our campground. Went to pick up the canoe the next day, and had a lovely daytime paddle around the lake just to get our bearings. Made a campfire. Had dinner. Waited for the sun to set. And then it was cloudy. Completely cloudy. For hours. We finally went out in the canoe anyways, just for the experience of canoeing in the dark (mildly terrifying, but also thrilling). The next day poured rain so hard that we had to borrow a neighbour's shovel to dig moats and ditches around our campsite so that the tent wouldn't be submerged. It was cold and wet and mildly awful in that way of camping stories that you laugh about later.

On our way home, I couldn't get over my disappointment at what seemed like a complete failure as far as artistic scavenger hunts go. I had really built up this starry paddle in my imagination, and even though nobody was expecting me to come home with this image, I felt like I'd failed to capture something important. Thankfully, at some point I reminded myself that all of my artwork is based on imagined places, and what it feels like to be somewhere, rather than a direct visual representation. So I got to work creating a piece that would be what this experience was in my imagination. And "Night Paddle" was born.

I was honoured when this piece was one of the 47 selected from the 462 submissions received for the Ontario Society of Artists 145th Annual Open Juried Exhibition, and then stunned when I learned it had received the Best in Show Award. This is my first ever "Best in Show", and a great reminder that sometimes - in life and in art - we haven't failed quite as badly as we think we have ;)

Image layers in the piece: The first background image is the bark from a rare and ancient Dragon Tree, on Pico Island in the Azores, where I did an artist residency in the summer of 2017. The silhouetted trees and the people in the canoe are from Kearney Lake, Algonquin Park (Ontario). The "stars" in the sky and reflected in the lake are bubbles formed on the surface of the lake near a small stream.

"Night Paddle", 2017. 36x36", Photographic composite mounted on stained birch panel. Limited edition of 10. Inquire for availability here: {contact form}

Night Paddle