Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Very Pleasant Surprise

A Clear, Rocky Stream in Lee's Summit
 The town I grew up in was surrounded by beautiful Ozark streams and rivers. I took them for granted. I have spent the last twenty five years living in the Kansas City area and, in spite of all of it's great qualities, it is surrounded by muddy gray waterways. As a landscape painter, I have spent the last couple of years pouring over topo maps and driving hundreds of miles trying to find the nearest Ozark type stream. Until recently my nearest find was over 100 miles away.

A few years ago I was driving west on Third Street in Lee's Summit where I currently live. While crossing a bridge I looked south and thought "that is one rocky looking stream." I past over the spot many times and told myself it must be my imagination. The stream is insignificant. It isn't named and is not listed on maps. Then I notice what looked like a trail beside it. Last month I finally decided to go investigate. Instead of muddy walled banks and water that looked like it came from a washing machine I was greeted by a limestone shelf, jumbled rocks and crystal clear water. It turned out my search was over. It does have a name, Cedar Creek and a large segment of it runs through a public park giving it a easy access via trails. For at least a mile it cuts through Bethany Falls limestone making several two to three foot waterfalls along the way. Why I have never heard of it or seen photos is a complete mystery. It is the city's best kept secret. It's only downside is that, being in town, quite a few plastic cups and grocery bags have washed into it. A small cleanup effort would do wonders.

Untitled, 8 x 8, oils - Laura Kratz
 This past Monday I went to paint there with local artist Laura Kratz. It was a perfect day to paint, classic early spring with lime green foliage and intense violet/pink redbuds. One of the great things about painting plein air is that, if you succeed at painting the colors you are seeing, you capture a sense of time and place. There is also a natural harmony to the colors. I think the pieces that Laura and I did reflect this. Learn more about her work at

Cedar Creek Falls, 8 x 10, oils - Larry DeGraff
 For those interested in finding my new painting spot, it is in Charles David Hartman Memorial Park behind the softball fields. The Lee's Summit Park and Rec Dept. website does not mention the creek at all!

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