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 16 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

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

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Coles Island (oil on canvas 5 x 7 in.) Sold

21 August 2014 finds me perched on the trunk of one of a number of leaning Red Maples that overhang the south shore of Coles Island, on the north side of the south channel of the Caanan River, in south central New Brunswick. 

Yesterday we were shown around this special part of the country and told its history. My parents' friend Hazen Hughes took time out from his busy schedule to show us the site along New Brunswick

Muskrat Island (oil on canvas 7 x 9 in.) Sold

9 September 2014 finds me in the bow of Scott Haig's canoe, exploring the perimeter of a small island in the Mattawa River, east of North Bay, Ontario. Scott has brought us through the eastern tip of the deep, spring-fed Trout Lake, to the Trans Canada Pipeline crossing at "The Narrows" of the Mattawa, where it flows into Turtle Lake.  

The island is pictureque - a pyramid of rock and trees, backlit by the afternoon sun. Paddling over to visit it, we find Leatherleaf and Sweetgale, leaning out to their reflections from lichen patterned rocks. Golden green mosses flow down over the shoulders of the granite rocks at the feet of tall slim White Pines and Cedars. As we paddle along the shaded north east side of the island, I notice open mussel shells glimmering submerged among the rocks, some wedged between stones and some in deeper water.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Salmon River Cloudscape (oil on canvas 5 x 7 in.)

15 August 2014 found me perched on a log at the waters edge below the steep forested bank of the Salmon River, 7 km southwest of Chipman, New Brunswick.

I was enchanted by the sky reflection, and tried to capture it quickly on a small canvas, but the clouds moved rapidly, changing the complexion of the scene dramatically during the time it took me to apply my underpainting and rough in the far bank. First the sky filled with bright fluffy clouds,

Friday, August 29, 2014

Wild Rice and Sweet Rush (oil on canvas 6 x 12 in.) Sold

21 August 2014 finds us at dusk looking across a marsh on Long Creek just above its confluence with the Canaan River, 13 km northeast of Cambridge Narrows, New Brunswick.  I have found my scene for a Fragile Crossings painting, just before the road enters the covered, wooden "Starkey's Bridge". We are looking out over soft green flats of what is apparently Wild Rice.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Grand Lake Mystery Snails (watercolour 4 x 5 in.) Sold

12 August 2014 found me touching up one of my oil paintings in the Bio-blitz headquarters in the Courthouse Museum in Gagetown, New Brunswick, when Don McAlpine showed me the Chinese Mystery Snails that were collected in Grand Lake off French Island.

I decided to paint them in watercolour. The the snail on the left has its aperture closed neatly by a horny "operculum" attached to the back of its tail, and the one on the right shows the eroded spire that

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Hurricane Drift (oil on canvas 8 x 8 in)

On 11 August 2014, Fred went out with Don McAlpine and Mary Sollows to Grand Point of  New Brunswick's Grand Lake, to search for specimens of Lampsilis cariosa that might have been thrown up by Hurricane Arthur. 

This was (before our surveys during this Bio-blitz) the one known Grand Lake location of the Yellow Lamp-mussel,  which prefers sandy bottoms, mostly in rivers. It was at this spit of sand and fine gravel that the species had been taken from the lake in 2001.

I've always found beach drift exciting as a subject for painting, and decided to do

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Swamp Milkweed on Thatch Island (oil on canvas 7 x 9 in.) Sold

12 August finds me on Thatch Island in the Grand Lake Protected Natural Area along the north shore of the Saint John River near Gagetown, New Brunswick. The meadows and marshes are glowing in the sun against the shady rows of trees that line the channels, and Kim Stubbs, the other Bio-blitz artist and I are setting up to paint riverine scenes. The sun is hot on Goldenrod, Evening Primrose, Angelica, and mints among the grasses around the cove where our boat is moored. The shade cast by the Silver Maples along the north shore's narrow channel is inviting as I try to find an exciting angle on the peaceful scene. Kim has her first painting half finished before I find the excitement I want - combining a distant scene with a botanical study.

Bumblebees and Honeybees visit the bright flowers of the small compact panicles of Swamp Loosestrife bloom, at head height for me as I sit beneath my sunshade. An Osprey

Thursday, August 14, 2014

French Island Forest (oil on canvas, 6 x 8 in.) Sold

9 August 2014 finds me with other Bio-blitz participants on French Island, between French Lake and Indian Lake in the Saint John River, Grand Lake Protected Natural Area, New Brunswick. We came by boat across a narrow channel from Sand Point, and upon landing on the pebbly beach the ant collectors went east to a hillside of birches and cedars stepping up among slabs of sandstone, and the botanists went in the other direction. The Myxomycologist (slime mold specialist), the Mycologist

Friday, August 8, 2014

Tobique and Cooper Mountain (oil on canvas 5 x 7 in.) Sold

7 August finds me painting from the back deck of a house overlooking the lovely Tobique River on "Reeds Island" near Plaster Rock, New Brunswick. I glance down to see our friend Lee's little red SUV push its way down through the long meadow grass below the house on a riverbank expedition with Fred to look for clams. They are following the presently invisible road to where his grandfather used to ford the river in the days when they used to cut hay on

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Rigaud River Willows (oil on canvas 7 x 9 in.)

4 August 2014 finds me looking out at the Rigaud River, from between two big old Willows at least 70 cm in diameter, with heavily ridged corky bark and moss-streaked bases. They are rooted in a jumble of granite rocks strewn with sticks and bark drifted there in spring floods. The left one has a felt of tiny rootlets over rock that it uses for feeding when the water is high.The right one elbows out near its base, leaning against a young Elm. These are not the native Black Willow, as their leaves

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Trent River Oak and Willows (oil on canvas, 6 x 8 in.) Sold

10 May 2014 found me admiring spreading willows and a magnificent old Burr Oak on the bank of the Trent River at a Conservation Area near Glen Miller, Ontario. We'd come for spring drifted mollusc shells, and we only noticed the "Line 9" pipeline river-crossing signs just as we were leaving. Our colleagues Amanda Bennett and Matt Keevil evidently hadn't noticed the pipeline crossing either, during years of launching their boat here as they studied the turtles in this stretch of the river. Our formal description of this “limestone savannah rare habitat” is “lawnpark bank of rapid canal-river, in residential area.”

After a day of collecting spring-drifted shells from creeks and rivers in Toronto we zoomed alog the 401 to the parking lot here and slept in the seats of the van until dawn. While I made breakfast, Fred sprinted for our traditional drift sample up near the Trent/Severn lock. He found handsfulls of chaffy drift from the eddy above the bridge. Much of the deposit was chunks of Cattail leaves hung up on the bedrock shore below Eastern Red Cedar

Monday, July 28, 2014

Jock River Sunset (oil on canvas 9 x 12 in.)

26 July 2014 finds me sitting on my painting caddy on the low grassy bank of the Jock River at the Trans Canada Pipeline crossing, south of the town of Richmond, Ontario. The setting sun glows through the boughs of an Ash tree across the river from me, and as I paint, the sky which this afternoon has been bright and cloudless but more white than blue, becomes more and more interesting now, with a few lavender clouds rising up from the west and drifting like scarves across the sun. Yesterday in Ottawa I first noticed the heavy haze smelling faintly of  woodsmoke which must be from forest fires far to the west and the south.

On our hike in from Dobson Lane we heard a Gray Tree Frog call, and saw two adult Leopard Frogs along the grassy ATV-rutted track. Now at the river as I settle down to paint we hear the voices of three kinds of Ranid frogs calling from where they are hidden along the water's edge - the "jugaroom" of a Bull Frog, a few banjo-string notes from hidden Green Frogs, and a single

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Madawaska River Crossing (oil on canvas 10 x 10 in.)

3 June 2014 found us just downstream of where the Trans Canada Pipeline crosses the Madawaska River, starting a painting of the steep north shore with its rocky outcrops and White Pines tossing their branches against the sky. The buried pipeline goes steeply down into the river from the far shore just to the left of this scene and then comes up through the meadow-like rightofway beside me.

We'd come in from Stewartville Road along the south shore of the river, and upstream of the pipeline right-of-way, we came through mixed woods to a sunny grove of large Aspen trees,

Friday, July 4, 2014

Devine Road Sunset Reflection (oil on canvas 8 x 16 in.)

27 April 2014 found us on Devine Road, 5 kilometres southeast of Carlsbad Springs. along a Beaver-influenced wetland, listening to a lively Spring Peeper chorus north of the road, and enjoying the sunset, reflected vividly in the roadside ditch. An American Bittern was thunder-pumping somewhere off in the Cattails behind the screen of European White Birch. Canada Geese passed overhead, honking, and a Redwinged Blackird announced his territory with a last few calls before dark. A Swamp Sparrow was singing as I decided on just the right composition with the help of my camera. This one would have to be started quickly onsite and finished in the studio.

We'd been out with Laurie McCannell to discuss surveys of the perimeter of this tract of land, where a landfill is proposed, and now we were circling the site, listening for calling frogs and birds. Since the “proponent” of the dump restricts access to the site, all the inventory work must done from perimeter roads. As the candy red sunset deepened, we added  the declining American Bittern to the inventory's list of birds.

Paints packed up when their colours could no longer be seen, and as dusk fell we returned to the van and ate supper to the tunes of Peepers, Wood Frogs, and Toads, and a couple of

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Summer Calm South Nation (oil on canvas 8x8 in.) Sold

19 June 2014 found me three kilometres northwest of Winchester Springs, Ontario, painting a view across the South Nation River from a steep grassy bank on its north shore. Tall grasses screened the river's edge. I flattened some of the Bromus and Reed Canary Grass into a nest for sitting to paint in the combined shades of a licheny sprawling Manitoba Maple and a stocky low-spreading Ash tree.

The purpose of this visit was to explore this part of the South Nation River where the Trans Canada Pipeline crosses it. You can read more about this idyllic spot and what we found there at our Vulnerable Watersheds blog.