Where the Loons Call—Violet's Self Portrait
My eighth grade project is a painting of Squam Lake, New Hampshire: my happy place, get away, and second home. It is a family camp that I’ve been going to since before I was born.
Below the painting, there are pictures of me every year at Squam Lake, starting with my mom when she was pregnant with me. It shows my journey to being who I am now. The painting is of a classic spot on the lake, the Main Dock. This is where kids jump into the crisp water of the beautiful lake off the diving board, maybe even being brave and climbing all the way up to the top of the high dive, jumping off, and feeling the warmth of the sun hitting them, moments before they feel the cool lake. That’s kind of like jumping into high school. It comes with everything, the thrill, the adrenaline, and the question of what comes next. The painting is of a view of the lake and mountains based on a picture that I took after dinner one night. It shows the main dock, loons, and a canoe, all of which have a reason for being there.
The Main Dock is where everyone comes together to swim, laugh, play, and make memories. This is where they journey off in the camp boat on your way to their first Loon Island Picnic. The Loon Island Picnic is a special memory for all of the kids. We go to an island on the lake and swim and play then collect blueberries, and by the end we don’t want to leave. My first picnic then becomes your last, and then I am using the boat for the “Teen Trip.” That’s when I knew I was growing up, and I was taking that trip with the people I love. The Main Dock is place where we say hello to the people we love for the first time in 351 days, something we might now be able to do this year, and it’s where we say goodbye. This is why I chose to paint the Main Dock or at least a corner of it, because of the memories, and trust me, there are many more.
In the painting there is also a canoe. That canoe represents another memory and tradition—the Wacky Canoe Races. The “Wackies” take place, again, at the Main Dock. This is a battle of the boats. There are teams of four that consist of family, friends, or even the camp staff and we compete in eight different races. The races are definitely wacky, but the most fun. One can also be a “lake shark.” These are kids who are all on a floating dock trying to splash the canoe racers as they pass. It’s a challenge.
Another small but important detail of the painting are the loons, the birds of the lake. The loons represent those of my family who went to the lake but whom I have never met. My family has been going to Squam Lake since my grandfather was a child, and I couldn’t be happier about our tradition. The loons also represent my grandfather who passed away before I could meet him. My mom, her siblings, and my grandmother spread his ashes in the lake. When they were doing this a group of loons swam over to the boat. They were a family of six, just like my mom’s family before my grandfather passed. They ended the ceremony of spreading the ashes, and one of the bigger loons swam away from the rest, just like my grandfather. So, my family has always had a connection with the loons, and that’s why they’re in the painting.
I first started to brainstorm ideas for my project in the fall. I had this idea to make a bunch of paintings about my brain and my favorite things. I was almost done with all the paintings when I realized I hated the idea. I went through at least three other ideas that I just did not love. One of them was to re-write the book that I wrote when I was in preschool. Finally I realized that I actually had an idea that I loved, and that was this project. I started the process of my project by picking out the painting and what I wanted it to be of. I chose to paint my favorite time of the day at the lake: dusk. Then I gathered supplies and started to paint it. I did a layer of blue paint for the water and added details to it later. The dock and sky were pretty easy, and I tried not to go crazy with detail on those. It took three different tries of repainting the mountains and adding different greys and greens to get the look I wanted. Same with the canoe. I finally finished the painting and it felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I felt like I learned a lot of technique, but I still needed to gather and print the photos. I went through about two thousand pictures until I narrowed them down to about twenty. I printed them out and arranged them below the painting.
During this project I realized I can’t imagine my life without Squam Lake. Not only did it make me the person I am, by introducing adventure and excitement, it also helped me build the strongest relationships with my cousins and the best friends that I made there.