I painted this one about a month ago from photos I took (not this year) of a large rhododendron garden in a nearby park. I say nearby, but it would have still required a ferry ride to visit this park and we haven’t been off our small island since the shutdown started almost three months ago.
Tom just wrote an amazing poem this weekend that speaks to the times we live in as much as this painting. I feel profoundly grateful to have inspired it with my art.
storm clouds rising somewhere up ahead
blossoms tossing shadowed on the wind
skies are changing blue is running red
searching for forgiveness for our sins
in the darkness under forest cover
eyes that hide from hunters passing by
we hold these truths
clutched to us like our mother
we tell these stories hoping they're a lie
raindrops splashing fat upon the flowers
shaking leaves and dampening the ground
summer's waking thunder tolls the hour
what never has been lost cannot be found
young buds open now their time has come
senescent giants falling free the sun
Painting continues to be a challenge right now. I am painting much slower and more deliberately than usual. There is beauty all around where I live and especially at this time of year but it has been difficult to focus on that given the world situation. In any case, there are periwinkles in the yard that have been blooming for a couple of weeks already and they made a natural choice for painting.
My method was a bit different for this one. I started with an under-painting of transparent burnt orange colour. (There’s only a bit of that still showing.) Then I built up the rest over a few days …so not alla prima.
Here’s Tom’s lovely poem for this piece. Enjoy!
Stars that cluster in the night
burning blue against the fall
of darkness, burning hot and bright,
expending everything and all
for brief eons of renown
as a constellation’s crown
in some distant elsewhere sky.
They burn and live and then they die
in vast explosions, sending seeds
to find their resting place in clouds
where younger stars will be endowed
with all a younger planet needs.
Then other creatures will arise
and look in wonder to the skies.
The world has changed a lot in a few short weeks …weeks that have felt very, very long. I want to continue posting images that reflect joy and beauty as I see it, but there are obvious challenges given the situation.
After the lockdown started where we are, it took a week or so for me to get into a headspace where I could start painting again. What came out was not a specific view, but reflected both the landscape here and my feeling of how surreal the unchanged local beauty seems in this context as well as the feeling of connectedness within separation of this time. This painting was not an alla prima piece. I kept coming back over several days layering paint until I achieved something close to the vision I had.
Tom as usual responded to the painting with a deeply beautiful poem.
Trees at Twilight
Behind the trees a secret lies
that whispers on the evening light
that speaks of other times and skies
before the day becomes the night…
as brightness falls the air is still
behind the forest, where the will
of Nature rules the tides and time
to make of this a place sublime
where the truth that can’t be spoken
drifts across the twilight sea
dipping deep to set us free
of all our yesterdays unbroken.
These silent sentinels behold
more beauty than is known or told.
Tom wrote a delightful, adventurous chapter book for kids aged about 8 to 11 years old and I did the illustrations. It is available in print now and we’re thrilled to see it in physical form!
Cedar Island Dreams tells the story of Anforth the racoon and his friends as they find themselves under attack by pirate wolves in a world of the far future where humans did something that made all kinds of animals intelligent before going away… somewhere.
Maybe it comes from my days working in architecture, but I enjoy looking at things in “plan view” (straight down). And recently, the beauty of the minutia we usually ignore right at our feet is drawing me in. There is so much life and colour there, once I stop to really look. The summers here get quite warm and very dry so I’m enjoying the rain and wet …well most of the time!
Here’s Tom’s haiku to go with this painting. 🙂
living rill feeds green
ripe grasses catching sunlight
ditch runs with spring rain
There is beauty all around including in the details of the various plants in the under-story of the West Coast woods. For example, here is the shiny green of salal leaves and the brilliant red of the Oregon grape leaves at this time of year. I had fun painting this – such bold, natural complementary colours!
Tom’s wonderful poem puts this tiny detail into a much bigger context of space and time.
The tangled under-story dwells
above dark earth, the ground’s foundation:
listen to the tale it tells
while the wind’s damp susurration
passes by on raven’s wings.
All around us voices sing
of elder days, when on this ground
no human footprint could be found.
The under-story still remembers
life alone beneath the trees
where forest gods might bend their knees
and coax new shoots from winter’s embers.
Ready always with the flame
of spring they leap to life again.
It was a very fine West coast winter day – quite mild and with sunshine! Our walk took us through the woods and out the other side towards farmland and pasture. This view is looking back towards the path to the woods. I like the feeling of this painting. It captures the cool winter sun and the mystery of the path.
You are reading “If On a Winter’s Day a Traveller”,
perhaps online, or on your phone,
during your commute. The train, the bus,
the streetcar is quite crowded,
jostling and rattling around
as you get your head into the poem.
What lies ahead? The curve of road or track
leads on to darkness, mystery, confused
deep tunnels, full of dusty lights,
or intersections where the traffic snarls
into a knot. There’s no way out
but forward, so you go,
The screen is dark, you’ve been distracted,
and now the poem is done.
I was out walking with Tom recently. We had done a loop through the forest and had come out back along the road to get to the car. The sun was sloping low over the horizon and touched this adorable pony with a magical light. Naturally, I had to try to capture the scene.
Behold the ponies in the field
who neither sow, nor do they reap:
they run with unabated zeal
from dawn until they pause to sleep.
They do not worry, fuss, nor fret
that with a hand or two they’d yet
become a horse, majestic steed,
a noble beast of strength and speed
that all admire. A pony’s satisfied
with sun for warmth and grass to eat,
a stable’s shelter when the sleet
of winter falls, and one to ride
them round the ring, through woods,
to dappled meadows, fine and good.
We went for a walk on New Year’s Day in a park by the ocean. There were a number of others out taking advantage of the pleasant day on a holiday as well with lots of shared smiles and well-wishes for the New Year.
This was a bit of an experiment. I knew that I wanted to paint the scene and took several photos but I wasn’t sure if any were quite right. Half way through painting it, I thought – that’s not working! The composition had looked interesting in a small photo but in the painting instead of drawing me in, I was just aware of the vast expanse of boring foreground. Adding more detail and texture to the grass, rocks and logs seems to have been enough to solve that problem and I like it now. Having some small figures in the scene gives a sense of scale and reminds me of traditional Chinese landscape paintings where there is almost always a figure going about their life in the distance.
Tom’s poem expresses how well he knows the coasts and seasons here.
These are the crooked roads we walk
wet, muddy, by the shore
where trees are bent by slow incessant summer winds
and empty winter gales.
Their cousins lie in serried ranks
along the rocky shore
tossed by tides and angry waves from distant isles
come to rest at last.
We walk on in silence strong
secure upon this shore
while beneath the winter scudding clouds the sea
lies calm in patient peace.
It doesn’t quite look that wintery here yet since there isn’t any snow on the ground. But I was in the mood to paint snow so I found a photo I took last year where the snow was bending the ferns along the path and a low winter sun shone through the trees.
Crooked branches, beams of light
scatter through the cold wet air
as fleeting day yields to the night:
sun slipping back to winter’s lair.
The slushy snow beneath my boots…
they mire in mud, they skid on roots,
as cold seeps in beneath my coat
while the daylight dims, a mote
of yellow, distant, glimmering light
is all that’s left of this short day
while long before me lies the way
with miles to go before the night
has gripped the forest, cold and deep,
so I walk on, and do not sleep.