A sunny day back in the spring. I was perched rather precariously on a large rock with my setup. It doesn’t look too bad in the photo, you’ll just have to trust me on that! 😉
The sea looks different every time …and the scudding clouds and the distant mountains too. Looking at a plein air painting always takes me back to the feeling of being in that place at that time, with the feel of the breeze and the smell of the ocean. Looking at this I just remembered I was visited by sea lions while I was painting this one. If they had come much closer, I would have packed up but they stayed down on the rocks off to the right of the frame of this painting. It was pretty magical.
Tom wrote a delightful, adventurous chapter book for kids aged about 8 to 11 years old and I did the illustrations. It is available in print now and we’re thrilled to see it in physical form!
Cedar Island Dreams tells the story of Anforth the racoon and his friends as they find themselves under attack by pirate wolves in a world of the far future where humans did something that made all kinds of animals intelligent before going away… somewhere.
There is beauty all around including in the details of the various plants in the under-story of the West Coast woods. For example, here is the shiny green of salal leaves and the brilliant red of the Oregon grape leaves at this time of year. I had fun painting this – such bold, natural complementary colours!
Tom’s wonderful poem puts this tiny detail into a much bigger context of space and time.
The tangled under-story dwells
above dark earth, the ground’s foundation:
listen to the tale it tells
while the wind’s damp susurration
passes by on raven’s wings.
All around us voices sing
of elder days, when on this ground
no human footprint could be found.
The under-story still remembers
life alone beneath the trees
where forest gods might bend their knees
and coax new shoots from winter’s embers.
Ready always with the flame
of spring they leap to life again.
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.
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,
The screen is dark, you’ve been distracted,
and now the poem is done.
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.
The feeling of the warmth and sleepy yet full vitality, of a summer afternoon – blackberry bushes alive with the sounds of bumblebees stocking up on pollen. This painting was finished just in time for my recent open studio and I was delighted at the reactions. The feeling I was trying to convey definitely made its way from eye to heart. That’s the best thing I, as an artist, can hope to achieve!
Maybe it’s the scale (the bees for example are about double life-sized) but the photo does not convey the feeling of the painting very well. That’s always a bit of a problem but for some reason, with this one there’s a bigger difference.
And here is Tom’s delightful poem which riffs on the notion of “the boys of summer”.
The bees of summer take the field
running ’round the diamond flowers
praying that the day will yield
a bounty worthy of their powers
to seek that sweet-spot in the sun
as from base to base they run
always heading back to home
to swing again and go alone
as fast as ever they can fly
gathering the crowd’s applause
who in winter’s frozen pause
will remember warmer skies.
The bees of summer never cease
while the score may still increase.
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.
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!
On a recent trip to Victoria on Vancouver Island, I saw some poppies growing in the dry grasses between the rocks near the ocean. These California poppies glow with a translucent orange and I immediately wanted to paint them – but since I didn’t have my equipment with me, I took a few pictures for inspiration when I got home. The above is my first take – very loose and fast. I like the exuberance of it but it wasn’t quite what I wanted so then I did a larger piece.
This was so much fun to paint. I really got into a flow with it.
Tom wrote a wonderful, mysterious poem for the second painting. What he sees and expresses about my work always amazes me but this one is especially mystical …I guess being both a poet and a quantum physicist affects how he sees the world!
tilting down the surreal axis
swirling ’round the complex plane
twisting through the field of praxis
choosing which is what again
while the fractal facets flicker
and the colours gripe and bicker
to achieve a balanced palette
pounding with a wooden mallet
all the powders and infusions
making dyes both true and fast
for this will be a work that lasts
conjuring such bold illusions
that the mind is turned about
what once was certain now is doubt