Lighting the Way

Over the past two years I’ve been creating a series of charcoal drawings to depict the many sculptural elements that I’ve been designing for my wilderness preserve in Muskoka. Most of these illustrations are of specific elements (or moments) that would be encountered as hikers moved through the forest, but when viewed as individual images they lacked any sense of the visual connections that tie them together. I also noticed that as I was developing the design for this axial route, it became apparent to me that the topographic differences between the flat oval clearing, and the many changes of level that occurred, as part of the entry sequence, required the creation of a site section to describe this complex journey. From these two criteria I decided to create the drawing shown above. Scanning this image from left to right the viewer would experience this trail as if walking through the forest, flashlight in hand, illuminating the way ahead.

I am happy to announce that this sectional drawing has been recognized with an Award of Excellence from the American Society of Architectural Illustrators (ASAI).

The Metamorphosis Walk

The detail of the drawing (seen below) illustrates the light projecting into the night sky above the oval clearing, which marks it as an important node on the journey. The pronounced “V” of light in the centre of the drawing is a visual device that pulls the viewer toward the bonfire which is the natural source of illumination. From there, clouds of smoke rise into the night sky.

The cottage, with its floating, pedimented entry, and oculus window, marks the East/West axis of the oval, while the journey itself proceeds directly north (or right in the drawing) from this space. From within the oval clearing, the first of many hikers with flashlights point their light northward (or right, in the drawing), illuminating the tree trunks and understory branches of the forest beyond.

I positioned the oval on the landscape to capitalize upon the naturally occurring amphitheatre which encloses the south side of the space. Once this flat plain was constructed, upon an otherwise sloped terrain, the northern edge of the oval became markedly elevated from the natural forest floor. It is here that I have designed the Genesis Grotto, with stairs which curve around the moss covered orb. Once this sculptural element is constructed, it will create a distinctive threshold, down into the forested landscape below.

These steps will descend to pathways that line the outer edges of a series of terraced reflecting pools that then drain into a natural, clear water stream, meandering through the forested ravine. Here, I have built a temporary foot bridge which spans the flowing waters, permitting passage along this axial route.

While the beams of the flashlights within my drawing initially point right, and the direction of travel, as one proceeds towards the bridge, the light floods into the forest from flashlights pointed in multiple directions (refer to the section detail below). The use of this device brings the viewer on the journey, as I could see the hikers taking a moment to experience the river and the effects of their flashlights upon the sparkling waters of the stream and the underside of the trees.

From the footbridge, hikers are drawn to the fire burning within the Diana Monument which will be constructed within a naturally occurring depression on the sloped hillside. Here they will encounter three arched thresholds (refer to the illustration below).

The Diana Monument is the second most important node within this journey and the light emanates from the fire burning within this circular opening, illuminating the night sky. This second V within the composition, reveals the significance of this element within the overall composition of the charcoal drawing.

To the right of the Diana Monument I have shown, within the charcoal drawing, the hikers flashlight with the longest beam of light. This is a view corridor that I’ve cut through the forest which allows the hiker to look towards the summit of the rocky outcrop.

The sculptural element, illuminated by this flashlight, lures hikers to the top of the hill. The shear face of rock makes a direct route impossible. It is only after a longer walk up a nearby valley will this sculptural element come back into view to the hiker, to remind them of the moment when it was first seen from below, at the beginning of their journey along Wolf Trail.

Further along this route, the hiker can observe the hilltop cabin. From the upper loft of this rustic retreat, visitors can peer out from the circular oculus, across Rabbit Bay below to the Dorset Fire Tower on the distant hillside. This local landmark is a beacon in an otherwise uninterrupted forest wilderness.

At this point, which is the highest elevation on the property, the beams of light from the flashlights in my drawing point again in multiple directions, signaling the multidirectional nature of the routes that proceed from this lookout. Here, the hiker can look out across the landscape, illuminated by the the moon and stars, or proceed into the darkness of the oak forest to continue their journey further along Wolf Trail.

This year, the ASAI conference will be held in London, England on November 16th and 17th, 2022 where my drawing will be on display, along with this year’s other winners. And, while I will not be able to attend the event in person, it is an honor to be recognized by the world’s preeminent architectural illustration organization with this award.

At the beginning of this artistic journey, my friend and mentor, Lynne Eichenberg suggested that I document the process of its creation. The drawings, and even creating these blog posts, are part of that process. Until I complete the conceptual framework for this master plan, much of my work will continue with the creation of new illustrations. While I have initiated the first physical pieces of this master plan, with the construction of the oval clearing, the foot bridge, and the many kilometers of trails, the intention is that eventually all of the remaining sculptural pieces will be built over the coming decade. For these elements, the charcoal drawings I’m creating now, will be the inspiration for the final built works.

I am pleased that this sectional drawing resonated with the judges, and feel reassured that my vision engages others. In a similar way, it is my goal that guests visiting this landscape and experiencing my choreographed journey throughout this wilderness, will be enlightened by their experience and after their time in the woods would develop a deeper appreciation of the natural world and their place within it. In the meantime, I’m content enjoying the process of creating images that illuminate the charcoal darkness.

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