The view from here

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The view from here (16″ x 20″ oil on archival gessoboard)

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.

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

Winter ditch

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Winter ditch (8″ x 10″ oil on raised panel)

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

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

One fine day

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One fine day (8″ x 10″ oil on archival raised, gessoed panel)

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.

Tom’s poem may mean more if you’ve read Italo Calvino’s “If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller” – however, it stands quite well alone. The image of my painting led Tom down a quite different path in his poem. I like it!

If On a Winter’s Day a Traveller

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,
in time.

The screen is dark, you’ve been distracted,
and now the poem is done.

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

Pony in a field

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Pony in a field (6″ x 8″ oil on raised panel)

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.

Tom wrote a light-hearted poem that suits the mood and day just right. Check out more of Tom’s poems on Hello Poetry!

Sufficient Unto the Hay

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.

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

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

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

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

On the beach

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On the beach (16″ x 20″ oil on canvas)

Here is another painting from the wonderful west coast of Vancouver Island. This was a very popular spot for people to take their dogs. Lots of happy pups cavorting on the beach and in the water. This painting was too large to do alla prima but I still worked quite quickly so that the under layers were still wet and moving enough when I added on the next day. It was three consecutive days of painting.

Tom’s wonderful poem speaks of things not seen directly in the painting, expanding on the visual in the imagination.

A cove that curves in shadow cool
beneath the overhanging trees;
clear waters, shallow tidal pools
reveal the secret of the seas:
that as above so too below
the seaweed wavers row on row
like flowers in the empty fields
and fishes dart as do the eels
like birds through sultry summer air
between the stems, above the buds
avoiding clouds that dance and scud
like waves concealing glimpses rare
into the world that dwells below
while above the flowers blow.

image (c) 2018 Hilary Farmer
poem (c) 2018 TJ Radcliffe