Jefferson Dam

The Rock River runs through the city of Jefferson about 2 blocks west of Main Street and there is a bike trail on both sides of the river. On the first day of the 2022 Jefferson Plain Air event, Monday, June 13, 2022, I started a painting of the river from the sidewalk on its west bank. Here I had a view of the dam and the visible portion of the hydroelectric plant and the city park that is on the other side of the river.

Jefferson Dam on the Rock River
Photo of Unfinished Jefferson Dam Painting after the first hour of painting

I started the painting around 9 in the morning and the temperature was already in the 80’s. The scene is a big one, so choosing what would be in the painting was difficult. From the beginning, I knew the focus would be the water and the water fills half the canvas. The top of the dam is a powerful diagonal in the composition. At this hour of the morning, the sky is a bright blue with some white clouds. The still water above the dam has a lot of the sky’s color in it as well as greens that are reflections of the trees in the park. Below the dam, the water has lavender and light bluish grey shades on the wave tops and green shades on the undersides of the waves. When painting water, the dark portions need to be painted first so that they have time to dry before the lighter portions are added. In the painting, you can see where the darkest portions of the falling water are. They are located behind the highest waves. At this point in the process, I have also sketched in the darkest parts of the trees on the far shore.

I then proceeded to add the various items on the shore. This included the red colored structures in the park, the many trees, the piers, and the rocks. It also included some strong vertical lines which are the flag pole and the utility poles. The Arts Alliance of Greater Jefferson has a picture of me painting at this spot on their Facebook Page. Link Below is a photo taken by my mother who was painting near me.

Mary Lynch painting nar the Jefferson Dam

Unfinished painting of Jefferson Dam after approximately 3 hours

We knew our painting time would be cut short by rain so I worked quickly to capture the most significant details in each section of the painting. This included the roof line of the buildings in the distance, the tree line, the clouds, the logs that were stuck on the dam and the turbulence at the base of the dam. It also includes portions of each of the park structures and the flag pole

Around noon the sky became grey and the color of the water changed. It was clear that it was about to rain, so we packed everything up. It would rain really hard for about two hours, and a severe thunderstorm was forecast to come through the area at 4 PM. After lunch, we scouted the surrounding area for future paint spots but did not set up to paint again. The thunderstorm did come, bringing with it hail and several tornadoes. I am glad we were safely inside by then.

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