Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Ancient Red Pine of Napisiquit (oil on canvas 11 x 14 in.) Sold

3 July 2015 finds me near the top of a mountain in the Nepisiquit Protected Natural Area near Mt. Carleton Provincial Park, New Brunswick. I'm sitting on a stump, leaning back against a fallen branch, and gazing up to paint a tall split-trunked Red Pine, waving its sunlit needles high against a cloud-tossed blue sky.

Yesterday the Dendrochronologist (tree historian) of the BiotaNB team Ben Phillips, cored some big old trees up here and found that two Red Pines (both of them split identically into two equal tops) counted approximately 300 years old. This is a heretofore unmeasured age for Red Pine. These may be the oldest known individuals of this species in North America.

So we mounted a second expedition, equipped with photographers (Steve and Nina Colwell) and an artist (myself) to hike back up today to further document the ancient Pines. We drove in and parked where a creek crosses the road, coming from a long thin Beaver dam, which we balanced along, with walking sticks, holding to

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Melody Oak (oil on canvas 18 x 24 in.) Sold

1 October 2015 finds me looking up into the canopy of a big old pasture Burr Oak, near the Carp Hills, west of Ottawa. This grand old tree is a world unto itself. Its branches arch across my entire field of vision as I recline with tilted easel a few metres from its roots. Its actual base is hidden from sight by the cherry bushes and buckthorns that crowd close about it. The burls at the bottom of my painting are really half way up its trunk. The sun moves up and over from the right,

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Shiva of the Carp Hills (oil on canvas 16 x 20 in.) Sold

30 August 2015 finds me painting the portrait of a majestic old Burr Oak at the edge of a forested escarpment just east of Carp, Ontario. The sky and open spaces of the Ottawa Valley twinkle between the trunks and foliage of younger trees but here beneath the arch of its massive limbs the ancient Oak provides dark shade and preserves moisture, and to all my senses this is "forest interior". Deep leaf litter cushions the spaces between the rocks I've assigned for my temporary studio, and I lean back against a mossy fallen branch and breathe in the breath of the trees. 

This is one of thirteen of the largest trees in the Carp Hills identified for a "big trees" contest, the winner to be announced on 13 September by our friend and tree expert Owen Clarkin. 

Large, old trees may be considered to be “mother trees”. They beneficially affect the

Thursday, October 29, 2015


Traveling across Canada this summer and fall, from Alberta to Ontario and then to New Brunswick, I fell into an imaginative way of exploring and sharing the nature of the landscape. Our three-year-old grandson Samuel could not be with us, and thinking of him, I bought a little plastic Pentasaurus from the gift shop in the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta. Posing "Pentas" having imaginary adventures everywhere we stopped to gather specimens and observations became my
passion. The magic of

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Pipestone Creek Marsh (oil on canvas 8 x 8 in.)

16 October 2014 found me astonished at the broad swath of cattail marsh that is Pipestone Creek, hemmed in by its forested valley wall, southwest of Broadview, Saskatchewan. The high sharp line of the flat prairie outside of this valley world is visible on the horizon though a gap in the trees. We are a little over a kilometre upstream of where the Transcanada pipeline crosses the Pipestone. We are past the places where we have the pipeline route mapped - so today we navigated by dead reckoning and were pleased to find signs for six parallel pipelines as they descend into the wide Pipestone valley, 17 kilometres southwest of

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

American Elm (oil on canvas 20 x 30 in.) and Heritage Elm Paintings - Online Auction

7 April 2014  found me taking photos for a commissioned portrait of a grand old American Elm that has been growing for over two centuries in the heart of Aylmer, Quebec. Its roots push under the pavement of Rue Broad, across from Parc Commemoratif, less than a block from Rue Principale. Rising like a monument to Nature's splendour, it sweeps the sky with the curve of its crown. Giant living relicts from the past; towering, fountain-shaped American Elms are becoming a rarity, which less than half a century ago were an abundantly common sight. Three-quarters surrounded by asphalt from road and an automobile-garage parking lot, the magnificent tree dwarfs a house on this side, and has for its constant companion a red-painted industrial-sized dumpster against its base on the other side. It measures 88 feet tall with a 5 foot diameter.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Slippery Elm (oil on canvas 24 x 30 in.)

7 April 2014 found me visiting a large Slippery Elm in a front yard about 8 km northwest of Aylmer, Quebec. As I stood back to photograph it with my back to the house it seemed to dance with the sky. 

The icy Ottawa River twinkled through a row of trees just beyond the snowy field across the highway. In my painting I didn't include that screen of near trees, because I wanted you to have a clear view of the river and across it, the hills north of Shirley's Bay on the Ontario side. I was rather disoriented here as I have always related to the Ottawa River running from west to east through Ottawa - but here it runs southeast to its big bend at Aylmer before flowing east to Ottawa.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Assiniboine Riverbank (oil on canvas, 6 x 12 in.)

20 October 2014 found me painting in late afternoon sunshine on the north bank of the Assiniboine River at Long Plain First Nations Reserve, southwest of Edwin, Manitoba. I sit on a rock amidst short grassy Carex, about 2 metres above the current water level, my feet making prints in the damp mud growing with scrambling Knotweed, at the edge of a small stand of reed-like Sandbar Willow.

Bend in the Assiniboine (oil on canvas, 6 x 12 in.)

18 October 2014 found me painting a bend in the Assiniboine River 5 km south of Miniota, Manitoba, 7.5km downstream of the planned Energy East pipeline crossing.  A Bald Eagle flies across the river and I paint it into the scene where it lands to sit briefly, high in one of the tall Ash trees that reach their split, scarred trunks through the tangle of the riverine forest on the far bank.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Grand Lake Meadows (oil on canvas 8 x 16 in.) Sold

19 July 2014 found me standing in the back of a pickup truck on the causeway through the Grand Lake Meadows near Gagetown, New Brunswick, snapping pictures of my favourite scene at my favourite time of day. I'd been craning my neck at this spot, every time we've driven the causeway - several times during last year's Bio-blitz, and even more this year, as this is the second and last year of the all-taxon survey of the Gagetown area.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Eagle River Hatchling (oil on canvas 7 x 9 in.)

24 October 2014 finds me clambering down the steep embankment from Highway 17 beside the bridge over the Eagle River, a little over two kilometres north of the town of Eagle River, Ontario. 

This is a broad, clay-bed river with boulders scattered along its edges and also emerging from the flat yellow-grassed clay and gravel shores.  A tall crest of Pines and Spruces reflects darkly from the far shore. I am searching for a scene.  

The soft wet sandy shore looks like a highway for wildlife. Deer tracks predominate, large and small cloven hoof prints - added to them are fox mink and Racoon, duck and Heron. The water is not quite clear, and olive brown.  An overcast day with a light breeze that one would call quiet if it weren't for highway noise. 

As I study the water to determine which way

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Rideau Crossing (oil on canvas 12 x 16 in.)

26 December 2014 found me out painting on my birthday, on the east shore of the Rideau River at  Gideon Adams Park, 3.3 kilometres south of Osgoode, Ontario. This spot is a little over 1.5 kilometres downstream from where the Energy East pipeline route crosses the Rideau River. Having chosen my scene from the vantage point of a small boulder beside the boat launch ramp, I sat with my canvas on my knees and my boots in the sun-melted black muck. Its surface was covered with a felt of bleached and drifted Star Duckweed sprinkled with tiny white snail shells. To my right rose a winter-bleached screen of Narrow-leaved Cattails, and to my right bulged a shape rather like my boulder, but Fred identified it as a hump of old foam rubber with grass growing through it. 

Fred moved along the shore as I scrubbed on the burnt sienna underpainting, collecting a "recycling bag" of the kind of litter humans leave, as well as carefully gathering handfuls of the most shell-rich duckweed drift. This is the

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Aidie Creek Winter Coming (oil on canvas 12 x 16 in.)

31 October 2014 found me watching rhythms in the rushing water of Aidie Creek at Highway 11, 9.5 km north north-west of Englehart. The air was calm and new snow clung to branches, whitening the leaf litter and melting on the rocks.

In May of 2002 Fred and I stopped briefly here, taking note of the lovely rapids, but since we were hurrying up to cover our Cochrane area study site for the James Bay Expedition it was a short visit, with a shelly drift sample and photos of the low stepped falls. This time again our stop was brief, as we were headed south along Highway 11 to a meeting of the Ontario Rivers Alliance in North Bay.

We pulled into the entrance to the picnic area just upstream of the Highway 11 bridge, and toured the extensive network of laneways among the rocks and trees, to find a spot to park near the river. We passed a lovely natural arrangement of Virgin's Bower (Clematis virginiana) sporting its ivory puff-balls among the

Monday, November 17, 2014

Fragile Crossings 2015 calendar now available!

We are pleased to announce the fifth annual calendar of my paintings. This year it features 12 paintings from our Fragile Crossings expedition, from Alberta to New Brunswick.  The 13th month features an essay on the Energy East pipeline, the text of which we have posted at our Vunlerable Watersheds blog. Sales of the calendar help to support our Fragile Crossings project. Through the winter Aleta will produce more paintings, and Fred will curate specimens and work on our report, posted at www.pinicola.ca/crossings/

The calendar is available for online purchase at Lulu.com

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Winnipeg River and Tunnel Island (oil on canvas 7 x 9 in.)

23 October 2014 finds me at a boat launch on the Winnipeg River, at the end of the Miller Rapids Road, north of Kenora, Ontario, looking upstream toward "Tunnel Island" and admiring the contrasting colour bands of the late afternoon sky to the west. Fred and Teika Newton are inspecting the shore of the bay on my left, picking up handsfulls of rich snail drift and observing Deer, Beaver, Raccoon, and 
Canada Goose tracks in the mud. A pair of Bald Eagles whimper-chirp to each other

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

South Saskatchewan Bluffs (oil on canvas 7 x 9 in.)

8 October 2014 finds me gazing at the castellate bluffs of eroded loess along the South Saskatchewan River upstream of Alberta Hwy 41, west of Burstall Saskatchewan. We could see that there were interesting bluffs as we gradually descended along the highway toward the bridge, but here at river level, they are much more impressive - and the river itself is clear and green, ruffled by the wind into wavelets that weave green and blue into a new intensity of colour that even in a narrow strip, balances the strange bold shapes and stark contrasts of the wind-carved bluffs. We drove from the bridge to a kilometre-long area of campsites to a broad rutted area at the river that serves as a boat-launch.

The Transcanada Pipeline crosses the South Saskatchewan River 8.2 km upstream of here. I settle on a view of castle-like formations directly across the river and perch my folding chair on a low grassy bank just back from the cobbly shore, near a seepage that leaves the pebbles crusty with alkali. Fred explores a bar of cobbles just to

Friday, October 10, 2014

Distant Bluffs on the Red Deer (oil on canvas, 6 x 12 in.)

7 October 2014 finds me sitting behind the guardrail in a camp chair, at the bridge over the Red Deer River, 3 kilometres northwest of Bindloss, Alberta. We came here past that village, a compact island of treed buildings in an oceanic expanse of prairie. There at the top of the bluffs, the prairie appears vast and slightly rolling, hiding its creeks and rivers in the creases of the landscape. Coming to the bridge we find the Red Deer River again, and I'm taken by the way the evening sun guilds the edges of the distant bluffs that wall this valley.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Red Deer River Sandbars (oil on canvas 10 x 20 in.)

4 October 2014 finds me on a long, wood-plank bridge over the Red Deer River, 16.3 kilometres upstream of the Transcanada Pipeline crossing. The bridge is just north of a tiny place named Buffalo, near a smallish oil drilling operation, a couple of hours north of Medicine Hat, Alberta.  I am, again, enjoying sandbars, looking downriver with the prairie wind and the afternoon sun both at my back. I'm

Monday, October 6, 2014

Athabasca Evening (oil on canvas 12 x 24 in)

20 September 2014 finds me looking over the Athabasca River from the "highload bypass" of the Thickwood exit from Highway 63 in Fort McMurray, Alberta.  We checked this site out yesterday evening at dusk, our first day in Fort McMurray, and found a good parking spot for me to paint from against the guardrail on the broad plateau of the ramp that curves high above the Sandbar Willows which line the river.
21 September 2014 finds me sitting against a towering cement pier, beneath what's been called the "the bridge to nowhere" south of Fort MacKay, Alberta, painting the long dark shadow of the bridge over the river flats. Just beyond the horizon, north, south, east, and west, are big tar sands operations. As each vehicle comes onto or drives off of this end of the bridge, there's a loud banging
clatter. This din is repeated