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.
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.
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.
We took a trip up the coast of British Columbia this summer to a place of great beauty called Desolation Sound. Keeping in mind how many extraordinary places there are around, this was still almost unbelievable.
These two little watercolours were the only paintings I did on site. I don’t know – maybe I was too busy soaking it all in but I am glad I at least I did these sketches. They do give the feeling of the sunlight and the scale of the cliffs and trees around the clove where we moored our sailboat. (Yes, I feel very lucky.)
I am sure there will be more paintings coming from memories of this trip.
As Tom’s poem so wonderfully evokes, we shared this place with many other creatures.
Stepping stones of giants climb
long pathways to the summer sky
where slow vultures dream in time
as eagles pass kingfishers by
before they circle down to land
in treetops reaching high, they stand
above the surface of the bay
where the sunlight dances, plays
with breezes blowing from the Sound.
Water ripples, calms again,
in warming depths the fishes claim
no better place was ever found.
I drift upon the waters, free
of care beneath the cliffs and trees.
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.
A memory of a winter walk over “the mountain” in Montreal …the squeak of the snow underfoot and air freezing in nostrils… This view from a path in the Parc du Mont-Royal is based on a photo taken recently by a friend – thanks Elena! I love the glow of the sun rising over the St. Laurent in the distance as well as the long shadows in the foreground. I experimented with this small (6×8) painting using thicker brushstrokes of paint to capture the shimmer of light.
Once again, Tom’s words paint the scene into poetry and celebrate the moment.
fire across the winter sky
burning down the frozen hours
rising up above the lie
of snow between the wooden towers
presaging the dance to come
where the world is lost and won
by the shadow and the light
in sweeping depths, abyssal heights
embracing moments on the tide
of light that’s pouring through the trees
stirring an unmoving breeze
along the path where truth abides
between cold past and future tense
moments turning here to hence
Another painting from a walk in Stanley Park in later December. The low slanting sun lit up some branches and tree trunks with a bright luminous glow – one of those sights that stays with you. Like the last painting, this one was painted alla prima. I think when the painting is being completed in one session, I put fewer expectations of perfection on myself and the result is freer and more full of life.
Tom was inspired to write a playful poem for the imagined wildlife of this scene.
Burnished branches standing in the dark
of taller trees, so jealous of the light
that warms the winter chill from broken bark,
reminding passers-by of summer’s bright
seductive evenings. Once not long ago
beneath spring skies two squirrels ran about
chittering while running to and fro
each ignoring all the other’s shouts
of joy and anger, frustration and love
until their dance completed in a tangle
in the branches far and high above
wherefrom a tail might be loosely dangled.
Now in the winter’s chill they’re safe and warm
Curled and sleeping far from winter storms.
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