Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Long Lake Beaver Lodge

Oil on linen (6 x 6 in.)     $350      
5 March 2016 finds me painting with Phil Chadwick on still-frozen Long Lake, near Outlet, south east of Lyndhurst, Ontario. We are facing the south west end of the lake, and facing the breeze as well, which chills our faces and fingers even though the temperature isn't much below freezing. Occasionally the sun gleams through the clouds, making golden sparkles on the distant edges of ice where the shallow end of the lake has begun to melt. Phil stands at his easel while I sit beside him on my painting caddy, holding my canvas, palette balanced on my knees.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Yarrow With Junco Tracks

oil on canvas 6 x 6 in.   $350

18 February 2016 found me finally out to paint en plein air in the snow! It was sunny and -7C after fresh snow. I went out on snowshoes from our back door, balancing tippily in the old deep path through the back yard, and then breaking 10 cm with each step into new snow, 'till I'd passed our "young" Sugar Maple and into an open spot where the dry flowerheads of Yarrow poked above the snow. The tracks of a small bird patterned the snow among the stiff brown stems, stopping at those it could reach and scattering a few chaffy flower bits. The sun was still above the cedars when I spread my extra jacket on top of the snowshoes

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Musquash Woods

         oil on canvas 20 x 24 in.                                                                         

I've just completed a commission from reference photos, taken for my Shore Birch painting, on our hike along the Butler Beach trail near Musquash, New Brunswick in 2013. It is wonderful to have a large canvas for this painting - large enough to be able to make the curls and shreds of Birch bark crisp and smooth, and to even show the little horizontal lenticel marks.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Sturgeon River Early Snow


oil on canvas 6 x 12 in.                                                                                                                  $450

30 October 2014 found us at the Sturgeon River, 16.3 km E Jellicoe, Thunder Bay District, Ontario.   This is half a kilometre north of where the Energy East route crosses this rocky brownwater river. We'd turned off the Transcanada Hwy 11 along Camp 51 Road, and walked down to here, on the east bank just below an island. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Moose Jaw Riverbank

Oil on canvas 7 x 9 in.              $425

11 October 2014 found us 9.5 km east of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, approaching the north bank of the Moose Jaw River on foot. We forced a path through waist-high vegetation, downhill toward the riverbank. It seemed that everything was growing there, not mixed together, but in patches. Clumps of wild Asparagus, a band of American Licorice, Wolf Willow, and more. I wanted to pause and write descriptions of each change in vegetation

Friday, January 15, 2016

Hatless Hoodoos

Oil on canvas 5 x 7       $350

16 August, 2015 found me exploring Hoodoos Trail, southeast of Drumheller, Alberta, with my sister Karen Rathbun. The day was sunny and windy, and the desert landscape searingly bright. Wind and rain and frost are wearing away the softer rock and clay, leaving standing shapes protected by "hats" of harder rock.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Red Deer River Cottonwoods

oil on canvas 8 x 8 in.     $400

11 August 2015 found me admiring the great Cottonwoods at the Bleriot Ferry Campground, northwest of Drumheller, Alberta. The campsite is over-bowered by Eckenwalder Cottonwoods mixed with some Populus balsamifera, (our familiar Boreal Balsam Cottonwoods), both of them growing to more than a metre in diameter. 

A distant view of the sunlit banks of the Red Deer River peeks through the downswept Cottonwood boughs, and the deeply furrowed, corky gray bark of the trunk beside me communicates somehow, like a living wall.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Brassils Creek

oil on canvas 6 x 12 in.                     $350                           
26 December 2015 finds me perched on my painting caddy, precariously balanced with my easel on a little island of sticks and grass which is the front porch of a large Beaver lodge, on the east side of Brassils Creek, north of Burritts Rapids, Ontario. The sinking sun burns through a loose fleece above the heavier cloud bank, reflecting itself just peeking past the darkly reflected Cedars - an interesting challenge to paint quickly. Daylight succumbs to dusk early these days. A high flying flock of Canada Geese honk unseen as I finish my burnt sienna underpainting. The only other sound is the persistent trickling of the creek as it flows beneath or around something upstream - perhaps partly submerged branches from Beaver cutting.

Fred is mandated to collect some of the invasive Orconectes rusticus Crayfish for the Royal Ontario Museum, but now he finds that the water level is too high to lift any stones for crayfish, and there are none in the open to be netted. He has an alternate place in mind on the North Branch of the South Nation River, so he picks shriveled Highbush Cranberry Viburnum fruit from bushes along the bridge for his night-time beverage and then retires to the truck to write his notes as I get as much painting done as I can. The dark cloud bank has already engulfed the sun, but I have an Ash tree, and Elm, and some ripples yet to paint.

Monday, December 14, 2015

"Our Breath is in Their Leaves" Karstad Art Calendar for 2016

Our Breath is in Their Leaves 2016

Calendar: $18.99


This 2016 art calendar showcases my favourite paintings of trees from the past four years of working en plein air. On each page you will find an excerpt from my journal and two images. Some provide a detail of brushwork, and others give a glimpse of myself at work in the presence of the trees themselves. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Fishing Lake Outlet

oil on canvas 7 x 9 in.          Sold

23 May 2015 found me anchored in our canoe 'Fairhaven Bay,' at the outlet arm of Fishing Lake, northwest of Battersea, Ontario. This is the granite-walled outlet channel of a narrow, 2 kilometre long clearwater lake in mixed forest, and I'm painting the narrows looking out toward the lake. 

As I sit quietly in the stern, stroking oil paint on my

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Mudpuppy Night in Oxford Mills


Oil on canvas, 16 x 20 in.     Sold

Since 1999 Fred Schueler and I have been running "Mudpuppy Night in Oxford Mills" in order to give these magnificent creatures the public attention they deserve, since they don't have any official status. These weekly outings also get us out to do winter fieldwork on a regular basis - because nobody knows what's out there unless somebody goes!

This fall we got a phonecall from Ontario Nature as part of their research for an article about Mudpuppies. This provided the impetus for me to do the painting I've always wanted to do. Some day I would paint these giant aquatic salamanders as they appear on the creek bottom through shallow water by spotlight. So as soon as we got home from New Brunswick in late September, I set aside a week, and from my field experience and photos taken while wading about with

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

2016 Calendar TINY DINOSAURS EXPLORE CANADA

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.)



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.