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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
While I find these tidal pool creatures fascinating and beautiful, there is also something strange and improbable about them. Technically, I was trying to get the sense of the sunlight using glints of bright colours. Definitely fun to paint!
Tom’s poetic take on the subject is a playful spin on a childhood rhyme.
When you wish upon a star
be careful of your wish’s aim:
a ball of gas, quite hot and far,
or something else that shares its name?
For an echinoderm will not
grant the wish that you have got
nor will it listen to appeals
from a human. All your feels
are as nothing to a fish
of the starry ocean kind
which may leave you in a bind
if to it you entrust your wish!
So when you wish, wish on a sun
beneath whose light strange creatures run.
Since visiting and then moving to the west coast of Canada, I have had the opportunity to explore nature of kinds that are vastly different from what I grew up with in Ontario. One thing that is especially different and fascinating are tidal pools. Sometimes, a casual glance is rewarded with the view of colourful creatures but even if not, the longer you look, the more you see. Tiny fish, or crabs scuttling along – sometimes wearing someone else’s shell, barnacles using their little feet to kick food into their mouths and it goes on – I couldn’t make this up! Anyway, anemones are one of the more obvious and beautiful creatures to see.
Here is Tom’s playful poem!
An enemy of anemone is my friend
for what do lurking colours oft portend?
A fish ensnared within the lair
of tentacles: entrapped unto its end!
A reticent young innocent defends
the fish whose tail now flailingly extends
from the grip of poisoned nips
of tentacles: a saving hand descends!
A true ally I’ll be, shall I transcend
our different species? For I apprehend
a soul at risk, and so I whisk
off tentacles: the fish no more condemned!