Starting with a poppy in the centre of this mandala seemed in tune with this time of year. Poppies and remembering.
Life is rather unsettled at the moment so it may be a while before I watercolour this. I wanted to share the black and white version anyway – since black and white also seems in tune with November.
Tom’s stirring poem:
Storm winds blow the scattered leaves of autumn
through the empty air, across the fields,
into ditches, craters, holes, and trenches
where a sniper aims for lost ideals:
service, duty, glory, resolution,
patriotic feeling, good and right,
huddled in the rank’s malign confusion
readying to rise and charge and strike.
The minutes tick around the face of time
measuring the heartbeats of the dead
breathing in the shadows, asking why
the blood of men so innocent is shed
for empire and for nation and for fear,
when all who seem so far are truly near.
In memory of Private George Lawrence Price, the last Canadian to die in WWI, two minutes before the Armistice:
For the next few weeks there will be less (or no) oil paintings and more watercolour or ink pieces. We are moving soon and the idea of trying to move wet oil paintings makes me cringe. Anyway, it is great to have other, quicker drying media that are also fun!
Dancing patterns of leaves fascinate me at this time of year and the colour play can be subtle or bold making for potentially endless variety. It’s very freeing because basically, all decisions work out looking good!
I always love Tom’s poems but this one is especially wonderful, I think.
Stems of autumn, soft decay
permeates their fallen leaves
yet still some beauty, green and grey,
falls between their stalks and sleeves
as season’s cycle yearns and turns
autumnal colours flare and burn
to scent the air with voiceless smoke
that rises from the forest’s coke
within the loam’s dark furnace hot
where summer crumbles into coals
and for the days of warmth there tolls
a curfew’s bell of iron wrought.
Falling figures through still air
dance for all that may be there.
This one ended up with a strong somber tone. I’m not sure why since I started with a flower! It’s a mystery. Anyway, the title arose because it felt like etching or metal inlay by the time I was done. We’re nearing the end of summer with autumn starting to give a hint of its cool breath. Perhaps that was in the back of my mind. Someone recently asked me about the meanings of mandalas which I have not studied deeply at all. I imagine that any analysis of my mandalas would say more about my psyche than about the iconography of any particular tradition.
Etched upon the sky’s grey steel
the trees of autumn raise their arms
while burnished roots both hold and heal
warding all from hurt and harm
keeping something in the centre
open, free, a door to enter
from the wind-blown darkling plain
where armies clash in cloud and rain
into a world of peace and strength
that can’t forget the promised spring
where still, perhaps, a bird might sing
while in some burrow, giving thanks,
a woodland creature, small and rare,
dares look out to see what’s there.
I decided to paint a larger work using the earlier small koi pond paintings as inspiration. As the size of a painting increases, the challenges can become exponentially greater. When paint starts drying, my usual alla prima techniques won’t work and it can be a struggle to keep the brushwork loose and fresh. Still, I hope I captured the feeling of the cool autumn evening watching the drifting willow leaves and lazily swimming fish.
Next time, I will try for the same feeling with a greater economy of brushstrokes!
Here is Tom’s haiku – he always uses just the right number of words 🙂
crooked branches bend
koi following time’s long curve
down straight water paths
Another painting from my visit to the Sun Yat-sen Garden in Vancouver. This one focused on the lily pads and reflections from the shore and sky.
Tom’s haiku for this one is …just perfect.
another world waits
through the water’s weathered glass
koi pass bare branches
And if you have a taste to see what this garden looks like …and feels like, check out this short film commissioned by the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Garden Society of Vancouver. Tom wrote the screen play and it really captures the place in a special way.
This small (8″x 8″ oil on canvas) painting is based on a photo I took a couple of weeks ago at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden here in Vancouver. It was a cloudy day but bright so I took advantage of the afternoon to do a little sight-seeing in my still relatively newly adopted city. The koi quietly swimming by while the willow leaves drifted on the surface of the water was a beautiful moment. It is a very picturesque Chinese garden and so there will likely be more paintings to come from my visit.
Tom’s beautiful haiku also captures the moment.
sky falls on water
dry leaves burn in autumn sun
koi pass by below
This was a day when everything felt easy. Other times you need to struggle through the process but days like this are a joy.
…and here is a wonderful poem from Tom to go with this painting.
fractured crystal of the sky
scattering the evening light
as the darkness drawing nigh
ushers in the quiet night
to cloak world in winter cold
as lonely souls each other hold
and round the fire a tale is told
of bygone heroes, brave and bold
until the teller silent falls
and voices rise in ancient song
praying winter won’t be long
as the restless crows each call
while the stars come out in pairs
between the angled branches bare