Drumbeg at New Years

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Drumbeg at New Years (16″ x 20″ oil on canvas)

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.

image (c) 2020 Hilary Farmer
poem (c) 2020 TJ Radcliffe

Winter sun

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Winter sun (8 x 10″ oil on canvas)

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.

Tom’s poem for this one perfectly brings back that moment while clearly referencing Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening“.

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.

image (c) 2019 Hilary Farmer
poem (c) 2019 TJ Radcliffe

From Brickyard Beach

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From Brickyard Beach (6″x8″ oil on canvas)

Here’s a quick piece from a recent walk. No matter the weather (it was a grey overcast day) it is still beautiful here …and every day is different – the light, the water …everything. I limited my palette a bit more than usual by removing all my shades of reds.

Tom wrote a lovely poem that is a (happier) riff on “Dover Beach” by Matthew Arnold.

The sea is calm today:
beneath the surface silent currents sweep
through narrows, over reefs
far down into the darkling deeps
while high above the sky keeps faith
with us. We walk the shore
in beauty as the light
of Winter Solstice softly peeps
through the crowded clouds that paint the sky.

There is no sadness here
no ignorance of all
the love, the joy, the hope that rules the world.
No leaden certainties constrain this life
to pain or darkness
though even now poor distant armies fight
beneath this sky, far off across the sea.

Stand by me now, my love,
on this cold day when light is short
for life is long
and in the Ocean’s silence is the song.

image (c) 2019 Hilary Farmer
poem (c) 2019 TJ Radcliffe

Beacon Hill wildflowers

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Beacon Hill wildflowers (8″ x 10″ oil on raised panel)

A scene from spring in Victoria – the grasses are alive with colour from all kinds of wildflowers while the trees are still bare, waiting for more warmth. Getting all those shades of green is always a challenge and I wanted to hint at the flowers without getting into too much detail.

Tom’s lovely poem perfectly captures that feeling of early spring.

Wet warm showers of April, sweet,
fall between the sprays of light
from the spring-time sun that meets
the rain with promises so bright
they dazzle we who climb the hill
and see the flowers, wild and still
until a gusty breeze ruffs down
their cheery slapdash coloured crowns
and rocks a barren winter oak
whose branches are yet bare and free,
although a tiny bud we see
where the sap has now awoke
beneath blue skies of sun and rain
that bring the world to life again.

image (c) 2019 Hilary Farmer
poem (c) 2019 TJ Radcliffe

Evening sky

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Evening sky (8″ x 8″ oil on raised panel)

Another painting inspired by this past summer’s trip to Desolation Sound, a beautiful place of infinite variety.

Tom’s poem celebrates the the place, the wildlife and the light …and the experience of being there. (Note that “nightjar” is another name for a nighthawk, an insectivore that darts about in the late evening catching its dinner.)

Clouds that wander high and bright
above the forest of the night
where nightjars nest and eagles fly
beneath the ever-changing sky

over waters cold and deep
where octopi and fishes sleep
and dolphins dance while whales progress
as summer breezes soft caress

the trees and islands, rocks and sea,
where in the cove we are set free
from common care and daily grind,
easing soul and freeing mind

to wander wide and ever bright
beyond the forest of the night
where nightjars nest and eagles fly
beneath the changeless evening sky.

image (c) 2019 Hilary Farmer
poem (c0 2019 TJ Radcliffe

Summer hum

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Summer hum (11″ x 14″ oil on stretched linen)

The feeling of the warmth and sleepy yet full vitality, of a summer afternoon –  blackberry bushes alive with the sounds of bumblebees stocking up on pollen. This painting was finished just in time for my recent open studio and I was delighted at the reactions. The feeling I was trying to convey definitely made its way from eye to heart. That’s the best thing I, as an artist, can hope to achieve!

Maybe it’s the scale (the bees for example are about double life-sized) but the photo does not convey the feeling of the painting very well. That’s always a bit of a problem but for some reason, with this one there’s a bigger difference.

And here is Tom’s delightful poem which riffs on the notion of “the boys of summer”.

The bees of summer take the field
running ’round the diamond flowers
praying that the day will yield
a bounty worthy of their powers
to seek that sweet-spot in the sun
as from base to base they run
always heading back to home
to swing again and go alone
as fast as ever they can fly
gathering the crowd’s applause
who in winter’s frozen pause
will remember warmer skies.
The bees of summer never cease
while the score may still increase.

image (c) 2019 Hilary Farmer
poem (c) 2019 TJ Radcliffe

Distant land

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Distant land (oil on 16″ x 20″ stretched canvas)

Things have been very busy lately – in the best possible way. I had an open studio as part of the Gabriola Island (Canadian) Thanksgiving  Studio Tour. So many lovely people came and several bought pieces. After working away on my own for about two years, it was wonderful to have such a positive experience when I let “outsiders” in to see my work!

The style in this painting evolved into something quite like some of the impressionists as I searched for a way to create a shimmer of light on the water. This is not any particular view but it’s very rooted here in the Gulf Islands of the West Coast – the mossy foreground, the light coming through the evergreens and distant mountains reminding us that there’s another world out there.

I love Tom’s poem for this one!

Shadows beckon, light awaits
around the distant point of land
where the evening gently scrapes
against the rocks where cedars stand
upon these timeless island shores
where in winter gale-winds roar
tearing at the ancient trees
that still stand tall in summer breeze
as the evening, warm and long,
breathes in life’s diversity:
mosses, flowers, trees, the sea
that sings the oldest of the songs.
Far beyond these coves and bays
The Ocean sings of elder days.

image (c) 2019 Hilary Farmer
poem (c) 2019 TJ Radcliffe