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
I was working on this theme in the summer and have come back to it. What can I say …I love trees! Last time I was working on individual 6″x6″ gessoed boards. This new piece was a different feeling since all the trees were integrated into one piece from the beginning and it took several sessions to complete the whole thing. Definitely not alla prima! The under-painting ranged from purple and magenta around the perimeter to pinks and yellows in the middle. I decided to try putting together the stretchers and canvas myself this time so I was able to select the smoothest weave of canvas the art store had. While nice, and certainly better for my purposes than regular canvas, it was still not quite as delightful to paint on as linen.
Tom’s poem for this painting is rich and deep. He found the words for what I was trying to say with my brush.
A pool of light within the sky
reflecting water’s rippled sheen:
plunging trees all reaching high
spreading branches strong and green.
Looking up into the depths
I see the open spaces swept
by wind and wave as I accept
a promise made, a promise kept.
Down here upon the forest floor
I stand transfixed beneath the vault
of heaven, ever finding fault
with my merely mortal core.
Still among the trees I stand
Between the water, sky, and land.
What can I say? A playful drawing begged for playful colours! And now the tiny cats are easy to see. UPDATE: See below to really see those kitties!
As usual, Tom saw all kinds of things to inspire his whimsical poetry.
Cotton candy clouds of wine
fill so full the valley cups
to the hill’s soft plimsol line
where the downs go to meet up
with the mysteries of the night
which rise while lovers dance in flight
toward completion, whole and right,
on to dawn’s emergence bright
from behind the hollow hills
where white cats lie nestled deep
practicing their purring skills
until they’re perfect, then they sleep
amidst the sun and shade of trees
while lowing herds cross o’re the leas.