Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Frances Anne Hopkins Paddles

While researching more info on historical canoe paddles, I of course need to mention the fantastic artwork of Frances Anne Hopkins. In 1858 she married an official of the Hudson Bay Company and accompanied him during his duties traversing the fur trade routes of North America. Many of her paintings are part of the online collection in the Library and Archives of Canada

One of her famous pieces entitled, Canoe Manned by Voyageurs Passing a Waterfall shows her seated amidships in a fur trade canoe with her husband while passing a serene cascade. A closeup of the paddles reveals the long and narrow shape, painted for visual effect, favoured by the hearty voyageurs.

Canoe Manned by Voyageurs Passing a Waterfall
(Ontario), 1869
Archives Canada Citation

Close up of paddles

In another piece, Voyageurs at Dawn, we see a voyageur camp with various actions occuring in the piece. Scattered throughout the work are some images of paddles. Closeups reveal the classic narrow painted and decorated blades

Voyageurs at Dawn, 1871
Archives Canada Citation

Decorated paddles laying on the ground
centre of painting)

More paddles leaning against a rock face
(far right of painting)

I'm not a big fan of painted paddles, but can definitely see the advantage back then both for visual reasons and preservations reasons (before the era of modern wood sealants). Given that these paddles were meant for use in a large, communal boat, I don't think their extremely narrow width and dimensions would be be very suitable for solo paddling - something I confirmed with my own experimental voyageur design made last year. Nonetheless, Hopkins' sketches and paintings of the time are a fantastic glimpse into this part of canadian history.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Photoshop Adjusted Maliseet Paddle

I while back I posted some info on a circa 1878 Maliseet Paddle. I really liked the curved etched motifs, but the age of the paddle and the resolution of the original image affected the clarity of the pattern. Using some newly learned Photoshop techniques, I tried to improve the image's decoration.

Original Image

First, I used the magnetic lasso tool to select the paddle blade and applied a black mask to the original background. Then by changing the hue and sharpening the image, I tried to make it look like a cherry wood paddle. By fiddling around with the controls of the unsharpen mask effect, I ended up increasing the contrast of the pattern, but that made it more grainy. Still, now the beautiful pattern is more obvious for when I attempt to replicate this decoration on a future blade.

Original Masked Image; Hue Adjustment; Unsharpen Mask Adjustment

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Christian Pilon & Bob Abrames - Modern Voyageurs

Came across this page of Christian Pilon, one of the original paddlers on the TFO reality show, Destination Nor'Ouest. Along with Bob Abrames, the two have logged several thousand kms in birchbark canoes with period appropriate voyageur gear.

Christian's album of their 2008 trip from Ottawa to Quebec City has some nice pics of their journey. Here are some select shots below:

The ride. Looks like the hull is made from stitched panels like my canoe

Portage through suburbia

Christian in the stern

Bob in the bow

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Auction Paddles

LiveAuctioneers.com has a great collection of paddle art for the avid collection. After doing a basic search (predominately in the "Sold" category), I came across a couple of unique paddle shapes and designs. All of these seem to have been purchased (although the selling price is not provided to non-members of the site), but they've peaked my interest. Hopefully you'll enjoy them too.

Pair of Painted Iroquois Canoe Paddles, made of two piece hardwood, red and white painted blade, unpainted shaft; each 65.5" long. Ex Howard K. Echenstern Collection.

Native American painted and Pyrography canoe paddle in half size. Circa 1915. Measures 36" long.

Pair of hand-painted canoe paddles with leaping fish. One handle painted green, the other handle painted red. 57 1/2" high . Condition: very good. Late 20th Century

Circa1940 Old Wooden Canoe Paddle, Hand-Carved.
Very long-bladed, long-handled canoe paddle, probably hand carved circa 1940. Incised carving on handle. The name 'Al Beauvais' is carved into the top of the handle with a fish. The initials 'AB' are carved into the other side. The blade is painted red. Overall length: 67". Condition: very good.

Four canoe paddles decorated with eagles, sunbursts, teepees, lettering, about 55 in. Nail and screw wounds, scratches and abrasions. Provenance: Said to have been used in the movie [Last of the Mohicans]; Bob Timberlake Collection.

Amazonian Decorated Canoe Paddle, single piece of wood with finely carved handle and ribbed blade, all in original black painted/stained geometric decoration; 60.5" long, with fine polished patina from use.
From the Estate of John Auraden of Hamilton & Fairhaven, Ohio.

Northwest Coast Painted Canoe Paddle, carved hardwood fashioned with a slightly convex triangular blade and raised central vein terminating into spade, two-pieced shaft with handle portion painted black, "T" shaped grip. Blade divided into four quadrants with alternating solid black blocks and red and yellow eyes, imagery of raven emerges at tip of blade, length 54.25", width of blade (at widest) 5.5".
Ex First People's Museum of the American Indian and Eskimo

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