Guest Blogger

Paddle Art Contest – Sean Lehan

Algonquin Loon

Here is the final product.

There are many important steps in creating a successful painting, but I find that the very first steps are the most important.

Gathering reference material is an essential beginning point for me. I go camping and canoeing every summer and take as many photos as I can. I am often going out at dawn or dusk in a canoe to capture the beauty of nature in the best possible light.

I saw this loon just this past summer on a lake in the backcountry. I decided to go out on the water in the canoe before sunset to see if I could get some good reference shots. I paddled out to the loon while she dove down underwater looking for food. Every time she went underwater, I would silently paddle a bit closer. Once I was within range of my telephoto lens, I stopped paddling and got my camera out. I probably stayed out on the lake with that loon for 30 minutes. The loon would dive down and resurface, sometimes closer to me, sometimes further away.

I took many photos from many angles, but I thought the most interesting ones were when the loon would flap its wings after preening its feathers. The photo I chose to paint was not the sharpest photo from the evening. The bird was a bit blurry, but it still showed enough detail to turn into a painting. The main thing I wanted to capture was the shape of the bird and the way the light accentuated its form.

When I decided to use the loon as part of the paddle, I knew that I wanted to show the loon within the context of its environment. However, none of the reference photos I had from that evening with the loon showed the shore or sky. So I went through some of the landscape photos I had taken over the summer and settled on one from Nellie Lake in Killarney Provincial Park as my background. This is not where I saw the loon, but the light on that morning was similar to the evening when I was photographing the loon, so I knew it would work out.

The last thing I had to do before starting to paint was create a composition that made sense and looked good. I struggled for a while with the placement of the loon. I needed to place the loon in a spot where it looked like it was not too big or small based on the perspective of the background lake. I fiddled around with my reference photos on the computer for a while and I even superimposed them onto an image of a paddle.

Once I had the composition the way I wanted it, all I had to do was add paint to the paddle until it looked right. I rarely do vertical compositions like this, so this was new for me. I am proud of the way the paddle turned out and I hope that someone will be proud to own it and support the arts around Huntsville and Oxtongue Lake.

Photo of Sean Lehan the artist.

You can see more of Sean Lehan’s work at

About the artist

Sean Lehan is a landscape and wildlife artist living in Kitchener, ON. He goes on many canoe trips throughout the year gathering reference material to turn into paintings in his studio at home. He thinks this is a great excuse to go on more canoe trips.

See all the paddles in the auction here

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