Halifax Dry Docks

Once again I'm out in the car studio. It is early morning and the city is just coming to life. A thick fog lifts as the pelting rain slows and a view opens up. Tangled steel, fence, beams and posts surround the dry dock. A huge ship reveals itself. It is out of its environment, supported high and dry within the floating dock under going  refit. Cranes and cables, tug boats and the old bridge frame the harbour and fill the view plane. It is amazing to see how much a view can change on any given day. The painting Once Upon a Harbour shows this change. Both colour and mood vary widely and make the site interesting to me.

Small Problem

Being on site creating work is often a logistical nightmare. Getting there is only half the fun and new sites and sounds are always a welcome reward. The ground is often uneven. Weather is always on your mind and bugs in spring can be overwhelming.  Along the shore of the ocean I always have to keep one eye on the water and be ready to head for shore ahead of the incoming tide. Perhaps that is what draws me back over and over again.

When it is not possible to work on site the studio is always available. The studio provides a familiar setting, a warm dry space with light for working into the night. It is very different working in the studio as the floor is level and the walls straight. There are no problems with weather or bugs. One problem is size, which in my case is small, blown all out of proportion with the new camera which makes the space looks very large. I can assure you it is not and requires constant shifting of work to keep space available. Small problem for sure.

Northern Light

As young students in elementary school we boarded a bus one day for a trip to Klienburg Ontario and the then private McMichael Collection of paintings. When we arrived one of the guides noted an old shed just off to the side of the parking lot.  We were told the shed, recently moved from Toronto, had been built behind the studio building for Tom Thomson to use when he was in the city. I couldn't resist leaving the group for a closer look and was just tall enough to see over the window sill. A very basic building, one door and a small window, with a sleeping loft. A large eagle painted inside, a doodle of sorts. I thought it must have been very cold inside in the winter until the stove warmed things up.

Once back with the group and inside the McMicheals log home we saw paintings illustrating views from across Canada. Paintings created by Tom Thomson and others that had later became known as the Group of Seven. We were told that AY Jackson one of the founders of the group and a good friend of Tom Thomsons lived downstairs when he was in town. He did not meet us on that day as he suffered from a cold and didn't want to pass it on.

Many years later one project we were asked to complete as students was to pick any painted picture at all and insert a self portrait into it. I looked and looked but nothing interested me like one of Tom Thomsons lake paintings.

The mystery surrounding the death of the painter Tom Thomson is only slightly clearer after reading Roy MacGregors' book Northern Light than it was before. MacGregor does point out that old time country justice and a good cover up seemed to be at play and that Toms' bones probably still rest at Canoe Lake even though an undertaker and immediate family would say otherwise, but who knows.

For me Northern Light was an interesting read bringing to light the geography of the early twentieth century Ontario. Familiar sites and sounds recalled. I had camped by these lakes, counted the stars reflected in their surfaces, drank their waters and painted their views.

Two Sides

Along the shore of the Bay of Fundy just where water narrows and enters the Minas Basin you will find Cape Split. Native legends relate the origins of the area through stories describing the formation of the Bay and the famous Five Islands.

Over this summer I found myself on the shores with paint and boards. Working with tone after my recent project with line made an interesting contrast but the contrast turned out not to be in the work so much as the way it happened.

When I work in the garden or woods around the house it is often just me and the birds. Painting along the shore this summer turned into a much more public performance. When I  began painting this day the tide was near its low point and I maintained that view in the painting adding only to the colour.

Often when I work in public places people steer clear for some reason but on this occasion many people stopped, sat and chatted. Initally conversation was about the work itself. Good, bad or indifferent. As the day went on and the overwhelming effects of the tide were reflected in the painting talk turned to the Bay.