Spatterdock CampDecember 12, 2022
Painting outdoors directly from life is my way of becoming absorbed in nature observation with natural light and fresh air. A favorite painting spot along the Hudson River in the upper Hudson Valley south of Coeymans Landing became the go-to-place to paint river life in person. One aspect in the river, at this particular location, became a challenge each time and that was Spatterdock.
Spatterdock is a supposedly edible water lily formally known as Yellow Pond Lily. There are several varieties of Yellow Pond Lily. The one common in our region and specific to the intertidal fresh and brackish marsh waters of the Hudson is Nuphar avena. Other common names and spellings include Beaver-lily, Beaver-root, Brandy-bottle, Bullhead Lily, Bull-head Lily, Bullhead Pond-lily, Spatterdock, Common Spatter Dock, Common Spatterdock, Common Yellow Pond-lily, Variegated Yellow Pond-lily, Yellow Cow-lily, Yellow Pond-lily, and Yellow Water-lily.
Spatterdock are floating aquatic plants with long stalks anchored in the riverbed. The leaves float flatly on the water surface when the water is the correct height. When the river tide is high they are submerged and when it is low they can be completely exposed to the air. Spatterdock must thrive with these changes in order to survive. Observing the various ways the plant looks during different water heights may make you think you are seeing a different plant each time. For the painter it is a challenge to capture the massive greenery before it rather quickly gains stature or completely disappears under the water. I cannot say that the focus of my painting in this location garnered an appreciation for Spatterdock, in fact I’d say I preferred days when it was completely submerged. It became a distraction and nuisance. I decided to investigate its pathology and biology in order to be fair. Giving it too much attention in paint was a hinderance to capturing free flowing impressions of the usual landscape. How like life this is, when a niggling bump in the road repeatedly requires your attention. The bit of sand in the oyster. So far Spatterdock is no pearl.