20 October 2005

Late Swim

I happened to be in the right place at the right time with my camera when these girls jumped. The sun had set behind them but there was still time for one last swim. It was at about this time, somewhere between day and night, that the loons began their haunting call.

This was my first painting to be rented out in an Art Gallery rental program, a special milestone for me.


I thought about the original owners of this home as I painted it. Did they often sit out on their wrap-around porch? How was their garden different than the one I was now painting? How different we are from the people of that era. And yet in many ways we are the same. We all reflect the values of the culture that we live in, and our perspectives are therefore different. And yet we are all human. Human strengths and frailties, and emotions; the human condition does not change. I am facinated by this concept. The houses are an echo of these people, now gone. So similar, so different. We learn from them by what they left behind.

When painting, I become very well acquainted the subject I am working on and all its little details. It is interesting, then, after a painting is finished, to revisit the site and have another look. I see it so much better after I have painted it. One fall day I took a slow drive by this home that I had come to know so well. I was in for a bit of a shock, however. The porch was a riot of garish halloween decorations. There were polyester cobwebs, cardboard skeletons, plastic witches and hollow eyed sheets where the flower baskets had hung.

This was not the essence of a people who had come and gone before us. This was a different kind of ghost. I quickly left.

Cottage Country

The great thing about photographing provincial park landscapes, is that no one may question what you are doing, unlike houses. Of course, Northern Ontario is a beautiful place, even if it is lacking the mountains I was used to, having come from BC. So the camping trip was an ideal opportunity to capture landscapes that were begging to be photographed. On this trip I also sketched.

Now some artists will take all manner of painting equipment out with them and paint right out there on location. They get very good at knowing exactly what to take right down to the sun hat and the bug spray. They also manage to shrink their art materials down to a very tidy little bundle, suitable for long hikes in the bush. They call it "Plein Air" painting, after the french for fresh air. It is especially popular in the UK. I however, was not quite up for all that. A sketch book and pencils would suffice. And of course, my trusty camera.

I sat on this Pre-Cambrian Canadian Sheild rock for a very long time one evening, sketching the lake and the rock and the trees. Actually, as I found, disecting the scene I was painting, the way an artist does, while being a living part of that environment myself, was a powerful experience. I wasn't only deeply seeing what was before me, but I was breathing it and hearing it and feeling it myself. I know my backside certainly was feeling it......

The sketch was an experience, but a painting was what I wanted.