Random Residuals


Sometimes the result could leave an impression that recalled events or feelings as in this case when the blue and reds echoed a July lake surrounded with rose bushes. 


Fair Day Saddle Race

Each year as a boy I was treated to all the anticipation and excitement created by the annual Caledon Fair in Southern Ontario. Just along the road from my grandparents home was the site of this annual event attended by hundreds of families from near and far. The saddle race, steam calliope, baked goods and the home made fudge table were highlights of the day.

Many years later these memories are revealed. I hadn't explored collage for years and using only a pencil on card stock the simplicity of the process struck me in a eureka kind of moment.

Paint by Number

Say What

Jar lids, a sheet of number stencils along with the paint and canvas became heros of the day. At the time numbers seemed to be attaching themselves to everything in our society. I decided to attach numbers to my canvas in a particularly insignificant manner. Having just completed work for the Home and Garden show at Anna Leonowens Gallery paint by number works were created while I was a student at NSCAD.

Fall Colours

At this time of year in the north east we enjoy a blast of colour courtesy of the forest trees which  turn all shades of yellow and red glowing against the sky. Summer grasses have turned golden and rustle on the wind.

When weather and time permit, I'm out the door anticipating the possibility of recording images during this time. Working with paint and brushes poses many problems but it is the speed of working in this way that attracts me.

The speed of work required just to keep up with the sun is an art in itself. The gesture drawing technique I learned in school to capture models changing poses every twenty or thirty seconds comes in very handy. It is a very physical process and demands full attention and quick reflexes. So here I was standing in a marsh in about a foot of water just at the top of what I call Fenerty Brook. The temperature was about plus two in the sun and it was late afternoon, light and temperature are changing very quickly. My gestures are reduced to stabs and scrapings but I was glad to be there all the same, taking it all in.


As a student learning and unlearning painting, hours were spent translating a three dimensional world onto a two dimensional surface. Recently, I found a book at a local second hand store, published as a show catalouge for an exhibition at the Tate Gallery in London, England. Fifty cents bought a read through some of the ideas expressed in the classes of the seventeenth century artist JMW Turner. Who, it turns out was also a lecturer on the subject of perspective. His stories reveal some of the roots of practice in early European studios and contemporary ideas and methods that he himself developed to measure and quantify space.

Pot of Gold

Some time ago I made a painting of one rainbow that landed on the lake. When this happens it seems a little more special than when rainbows are visible but pass over the lake and beyond the surrounding hills before descending. In this case I did not see the pot of gold on the water but the radiance of light alone fills you up to overflowing.

In the creation of the random residual paintings I began using any method of paint application other than brushes. Rubbings had explored cubist ideas of multiple viewpoints and in this case the two ideas merged as if by magic.  I guess  that once I stepped over into collage without thinking things just went together like a happy accident. I think the pot of gold revealed itself in the image.

Summer Breeze

Chester Harbour

The opportunity to paint outside has always been source of joy and that was just what happened last weekend.  Friends called to see if we would be interested in swimming at a beach we had never been before. Everyone I spoke with over the last few weeks had commented on the warm ocean water of August so we jumped at the chance.

Swimming and a picnic were the purpose but I did carry my paints and took time to make sketch as we sat listening to the wind and the water.  The weather forecast was for clear but with an approaching hurricane clouds would be moving in. The water reflects changes in the sky energizing the work. The beautiful air held on through the afternoon and with extra light I made a second sketch. Without thinking I turned my view to the left looking out to the Tancook Islands as the tide approached and created a diptych of sorts.

The Tancooks

Once Upon a Harbour

I have been painting along the harbour for a number of years. Normally very quick sketches using small panels that I carry with me. As the city grows visual access to the harbour decreases. Sometimes as I go about my day I travel on the Halifax side and sometimes the Dartmouth side, you just never know what you will find. 

One day not to long ago I drove up Barrington Street towards the new bridge and was struck by a display on our waterfront. I'm sure it wasn't planned that way but there it was Red, Yellow and Blue the primary colours just waiting to be recorded. I made a few stops and settled in to make some sketches of the site. 

I worked on the painting with the working title Bobs World in honour of our friend Bob and his father who spent years working on the waterfront in just such an environment. The scale of the waterfront is overwhelming.  Normally large equipment and buildings appear toy like. 


 A few years ago in spring Karen sent a photo of a young moose that had wandered into her yard.  At the time silhouettes representing animals had become part of art making. A decision was made to make a series of paintings using her young moose photo.

Images bounce around the studio, bits and pieces fitting together over time and twelve paintings later the moose lands on the very beach. Funny how that  happens from an original sketch of the beach at Blomidon on the Minas Basin. The moose seemed in awe of the site as I was the first time I watched the huge tides of Fundy drain the bay and then refill.


Over the weekend  as part of the Garden Party show I was invited to paint in the gallery. I cut some flowers from the yard and placed them in the window. I used them for the afternoon and while I worked people stopped by to talk about paint and painting. There was no shortage of conversation. We talked and I worked at the sketch and invited those that were inclined to try their hand. Some expressed that they had bought materials and had them at home for years but were too afraid to use them. I passed them the brushes and colours and with some coaxing, away they went.  I hope I helped them over that problem. The show itself is going well with lots of great comments and support. The Chronicle Herald newspaper ran a large full colour image of one of the paintings and so the work was sold before it was hung. 

Garden Party July 2011

It has been a busy time in the garden and in the studio. The art sales and rental gallery has published a set of photos of the paintings. 


We had a beautiful weekend at our friends farm in rural Nova Scotia. Painting was on order and the weather cooperated providing a perfect background. It was too early in the year for the biting flies so I was able to work at ease. On the second day the early morning skies began to clear and the wind died down. I went out into the yard and set up to capture a view of the apple tree and garden that sat behind the house. At first there was just the tree and garden fence then one robin arrived on the scene. Birds kept arriving and I added them in as well. It was a prefect scene to be a part of and then the swallows returned and started to show off their flying skills with sharp turns and hovering all around. What a time to be there as birds took over the canvas and filled the view with the optimism and hope that only they can. 


Island at Springfield Lake

When I first began to work with paint and images of the world around me the question of what to paint kept arising. The double whammy, fears of white paper and failure always lurked. Would I get it just right would other people see what I had seen? Luckily, with the help of great teachers I was able to get down to work and just keep on going. 

On this occasion, quite some time ago, I looked out the window and was greeted with a view of the island in the midst of the changing sky and water. I had learned to keep materials at hand for just such a time and not to question the event, only to respond through gesture punctuated with line and tone. 

That day I worked with water colours on paper which provided a portable and very direct method of working that has continued to this day. 

Winter Garden

Still Life Plants, 2011
Junk table plants make a garden in winter. It's not the same as being outside but by trying to keep up to the bloom cycle it feels similar in spirit at least. The working time is longer and spans a few days as the light moves past so quickly in late winter.

Our days are getting longer now and soon the temps will be above zero long enough to get back to favourite spots. We skied back through Mount Uniacke last weekend and found water on the ground moving under the snow which will make beautiful patterns to capture as the spring quickens. I have canvas stretched and ready to go and my paint bag is loaded.