The emerald dominated colours of this small mountain lake speak of the landscape that lies beyond the painting’s edge. On the dry steep mountain slope that rises sharply above the adjacent shoreline the rock cliffs are dominated by grey and buff coloured limestones which are covered in lichen. Douglas-fir, ponderosa pine, western larch and a few trembling aspen trees lend their vibrant spring colours to the water’s surface. The clear, crystalline water directs the light deep into the lake and keeps the colours vibrant rather than dark or muddy.
Regardless of the surrounding landscape, the surface of a body of water is a complex landscape all in itself. The direction of the wind and dynamics of wave action create ripples and waves which dictate the direction of this liquid landscape`s terrain. Like rows of mountain ranges, the waves form a myriad of peaks and valleys. Unlike geological mountain ranges, the height and shape of the water waves are controlled by wind speed, and in turn, the shape of the waves dictate what proportion of the sky’s blue and the surrounding landscape will reflect off its surface. The bright, contrasting colours of the loon are also reflected into the water, and in return some of the waters emerald qualities are reflected back on to the silky sheen of the loon’s neck and face.
There is an important yet subtle ecological relationship at play in this painting even though the setting appears as a simple one. This lake is habitat for the Common Loon but it’s not the colour of the water’s reflection or complexity of wave dynamics that matters to the loon. For the loon it’s all about food – the small trout which are sustained in this lake by its healthy aquatic environment. The loon will nest along the bullrushes close to the water’s edge and its young will remain on the lake until late summer or early fall. The loon, along with many species of aquatic dependent wildlife such as ospreys, kingfishers and otters, exist and raise their young in these habitats because the fish are able to persist beneath the emerald reflections year-round.