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.)

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. 

Dear concerned citizens,

This 8 x 18 inch oil painting is available by e-mail auction to support our independent survey of the Energy East Pipeline. The starting price is $375 and bidding will close at midnight on 1 July. If you would like to purchase it, please contact Aleta   

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Pulled Out to Stay (oil on canvas 6 x 8 in.)

1 June 2014 found me on another Cockburn Island beach, called by the locals "Connell's Dump", used until 1960 as a depot for the lumber and pulpwood industry on the island. The Connells floated the logs off the beach in booms, which were towed around to the dock at Tolsmaville, some to be loaded onto ships, and some to be made into boards at the two local sawmills. The last of the logs still remain, with White Cedars growing up among them, behind the ridge

Monday, June 16, 2014

Sand Bay, Cockburn Island (oil on canvas 6 x 12 in.) Sold

30 May 2014 found us at Sand Bay on the south shore of Cockburn (pronounced  'Coeburn') Island, a large island off the western tip of Manitoulin Island, a team of biologists led by Nature Conservancy staff.  When we arrived here at Sand Bay on Cockburn Island's Lake Huron shore in the early afternoon, wraiths of mist were drifting inland across the upper beach and over marshy pools bristly with Juncus reed, but as things warmed up the mist disappeared. I sat to paint in the shade of a Tamarack among mats of Horizontal Juniper on the low dunes, where larval Lacewings lurked in conical Ant Lion pits waiting for careless Ants, and Tiger Beetles with olive-coloured backs scooted between the reaching branch tips of the Junipers. Gray Treefrogs called from bushes where a little old log cabin faced the beach, backed in among tall Spruces.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Sandhill Crane Chick (watercolour 5 x 5 in.)

1 June 2014 found me exploring a wetland on a tributary to Sand Lake, 9.5 km south of Tolsmaville, on Cockburn Island, off the western tip Manitoulin. It was a cool sunny day and we stopped at a marsh where a team of visiting biologists had seen Painted Turtles and mating Snapping Turtles the day before, still hoping to find a Blandings Turtle. Beavers had piled mud and sticks against a grating that had been propped against the mouth of a culvert to baffle their attempts to stop the flow. Water was still flowing through the culvert in spite of the Beavers' efforts. Fred and the others noted three Painted

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Flooded Fields (oil on canvas 6 x 8 in.)

10 April finds me sitting in the car 1.5 kilometres south of home in Bishops Mills Ontario, painting the Streights' flooded cornfields. I came out late on this overcast day, hoping for some colour in the sky for a painting of flooded fields, as even on a very dull day there's usually a little colour near the horizon in the evening. Looking southwest around 6:00 pm today it's pale salmon.

The Canada Geese which had dotted the watery field when I

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Merrickville Rock Elm (oil on canvas 24 x 36 in.) Sold

"Rock Elm is one of those species which can leave an immediate impression on the observer" writes Owen Clarkin, who commissioned this painting.

"It frequently develops a rugged growth form with deeply ridged mature bark, pendulous "claw-like" branches, and corky twigs.  To me this tree (the "Merrickville Monster") signifies how the common can become rare and eventually obscure, given that Rock Elm is poorly known to the public at present.  Rock Elm was historically documented as being a common tree in Ontario, being exported to England as square timber for shipbuilding (etc.) and supporting industries such as the manufacture of hockey sticks, piano frames, vehicle frames, and tool handles.  The wood of the species is one of the hardest, strongest, and toughest of any large tree, and it

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Icebound Treasure With Trucks (oil on canvas 6 x 12 in.)


19 March 2014 finds me on County Road 14, 2.3 km NNW Ingleside, Ontario, looking across a snowy field where Hoople Creek winds toward the bridge on Highway 401. An intermittent stream of long trucks flows from east to west and from west to east, while the creek itself appears motionless, its stream running beneath ice and snow - but I can see its path where water has melted and re-frozen, pale sea-green and amber. We are 700 metres east-south-east of where the Transcanada and Enbridge cross Hoople Creek. This is the first of our visits to stream crossings along the route of the pipelines that are proposed to carry the Energy East bitumen to New Brunswick.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Rock Elm With Swallowwort (oil on canvas 11 x 14 in.)

23 February found me trampling over a snowbank to photograph a roadside Rock Elm, Ulmus thomasii at Glen Buell at the corner of Temperance Road and Highway 29, north of Brockville, Ontario.

I carried a twig and a portion of vine home to use as reference for the painting. An interesting thing about the corky thickening of bark is how it begins rather abruptly after a twig is two or three years old. Older, slow-growing twigs have corky coats nearly

Friday, February 21, 2014

Fern Pelt of the Frontenac (oil on canvas 10 x 12 in.)

14 October 2013 is a scene I'm returning to, for a closer look at the pelt of mosses, lichens, and ferns on the "Frontenac Rock Face With Rock Tripe" that I painted on that day along the Fishing Lake Road north of Battersea, Ontario.

With a snowy scene outside my window and a fire in the wood stove, I'm revisiting through my photographs the diversity of textures and colours in which I feel most at home. There is just enough detail to draw me in. It seems that the closer I look, the more real it becomes to me, and I can almost smell the sharp, earthy wetness of the moss, and feel the soft, leathery fronds of the evergreen Polypody ferns. They will still be there now, green under ice and snow.

In the title of this piece I play on the name of the purple palm-shaped lichen Peltigera, turning up the ruffled margins of its flat

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Landscape Book Published!

Announcing a new book from the Library of One Thing And Another!

LANDSCAPE, Progress Toward a Philosophy of Sustainable Occupancy is a collection of essays and other documents written by Fred Schueler and Aleta Karstad over the course of 25 years in the process of trying to understand human occupancy of a rural municipality in Eastern Ontario.  

Decorated with ink sketches from Aleta's journals and graced by Fred's and Aleta's poems and songs relevant to the chapters, this black and white book of a little over 200 pages is a quiet revolution in itself - a challenge to people who long for a change in socio-ecological thinking, that paradigm shift that we've all heard about and are still waiting for, to think again from a fresh perspective about the Landscape in which they live.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Two Coyotes in Lyn Valley (oil on canvas 8 x 16 in.) Sold

4 February finds us thwarted in our intention to walk in to Lyn Falls northwest of Brockville, Ontario, to paint snow, ice, rocks and water. The path to the falls is unbroken knee-deep snow with a variable crust somewhere in the middle, and waist-high roadside banks cast up by the snowplows allow no room to park the van even if there were time to wade in to the falls before sunset.  So we stopped by the bridge over Golden Creek just upstream of its confluence with Lyn Creek, and followed Lyn Creek by foot along the road, where the stream narrows so the rocky far bank is close, shaded by overhanging Hemlocks.

Suddenly the view of the creek bed opens out and I find myself looking up the valley toward the sunset. Two sets of Coyote tracks head away up the snowy creek. There's no time to go back to the van for my paints and still catch the light as it is now - so I paint the scene in my mind, and with the help of my camera for the shapes of things, return home to paint. The photo comes out quite dark with the western sky so bright, but I remember the colours of the snow.

This is the far eastern edge of the Canadian Shield, where the granite bones of the Frontenac Arch meet the Smiths Falls Limestone Plain. Lyn Valley drops away from the high country along County Road 27 when one heads west toward Lyn, and the view of the valley bottom far below is breathtaking.  In this painting you are on the bank of Lyn Creek in Lyn Valley, one of the best kept

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Singleton Lake Window on Winter (oil on canvas 6 x 8 in.)

19 January finds me painting with Phil Chadwick through the sunroom window of his house on Singleton Lake near Lyndhurst, in eastern Ontario's Frontenac Arch. After a sunny afternoon in Phil's studio, helping to select and pack paintings for our upcoming group show in Sydenham, there's not much daylight left to gear up and go out to paint, so we go next door to the house for tea. The sunroom gives me a view on Singleton Lake that I hadn't seen yet, and I begin to frame potential compositions

Monday, January 27, 2014

Winter Breakup (oil on canvas, 8 x 16 in.)

18 January found me standing on the bridge at the dam in Oxford Mills, Ontario, admiring the wonderful diversity of forms and textures of ice and water during a mid-winter breakup. Most of our visits to Kemptville Creek at the Oxford Mills dam are nocturnal, as each Friday night through the winter we monitor a population of giant aquatic salamanders, Necturus nebulosus the Mudpuppy. We have been doing this for 15 years, and invite the public to join us in the count.

The diversity of forms and textures of ice have always excited me, and I'm pleased with the idea of painting ice and water as a subject in itself, with no view of the surrounding scene. This allows the painting to approach the abstract while maintaining enough realism to engage the mind in exploring the lights and textures as real.

My eyes and brushes play about the swirling foam over the brown and golden depths and shallows, and distinguish between golden submerged ice and milky translucent old ice, and the pillows and billows of frozen froth, snowy white new foam and ivory brown old foam, mapping the cracks in slabs patterned as if with lichens by crusty crystals of sublimated snow.

My enjoyment of this small segment of ice and water scape is magnified by the knowledge that tomorrow it will be different again, and when the extreme cold returns and the water level falls, there will be fantastic ice caverns in the spaces

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Wolf Lake Raven Vision (oil on canvas 6 x 8 in.)

14 August 2013 found me at dusk on the crest of a splendid granite cliff above Wolf Lake, Temagami District. Painters, photographers, poets, artists in wool, wood, and clay, as well as visionaries and guides, were talking quietly, hands wrapped around our mugs of after-supper tea. The youngest participant in the art camp was still at work, inspired by the high view of the Wolf Lake wilderness, drawing the head of a Raven.

Going through my photos from Wolf Lake to choose the next image for a studio painting, stretching the experience of old growth Red Pine forest, pristine lakes and wild waterfalls of Wolf and Silvester Lakes into my winter indoor studio, I lingered again on the image of this young artist. His stillness blends with the scene, his form as lithe and youthful as the young pines that cling to the cliff. His legs hug the curve of the rock and his distant gaze expands the landscape far beyond the borders of my painting. With my eyes and my brush

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Island and Cloud Shadow (oil on canvas 10 x 20 in.)

16 August found me canoeing south on Sylvester Lake from the art camp on the shore of Wolf Lake, Temagami District. The mood of open water is entirely influenced by wind and sky. Today it's like a fairy tale. The lake is smooth and the reflections exquisite. Looking behind us at the old growth forest on the western shore, I was entranced by a cloud shadow making an arrow shape with its reflection, and inserted in its tip was the sharp bright sliver of a granite island, glowing pink in the sun.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Pipers House Trees (oil on canvas 5 x 7 in.)

26 December found me out on the road with my paint box and a blanket, taking photos of the ice and snow on the trees in front of our house and deciding which snow bank to sit on to begin my birthday painting. Then it began to snow. I have painted in rain with an umbrella on a number of occasions, and I've painted in snow with an umbrella, twice, with great difficulty. Snow flakes are so light that they fly up under the umbrella, settle on my palette, and stick to the paint on my brushes. I said to myself "been there, done that..." and took a good long look at the subtle colours of sky and snow which I knew would not show well in my reference photos, and decided to be satisfied with having conceived the painting on my birthday. This year I'm satisfied to have finished my birthday painting before the end of the year. Some times one finds it necessary to fly lower - but it's important to keep flying!

We have escaped the terrible ice storms that clobbered areas to the east and west and south of us. The twigs are bent down with a 5 mm

Saturday, December 21, 2013

New Art Calendar for 2014

Welcome to my plein air studio – the great outdoors! This calendar for 2014 is a selection of my favorite plein air paintings.
I paint outdoors because it speaks to me directly, to all my senses, and I love the challenge of painting not only what I see, but also painting to share the life and breath of a place and everything in it.
Each painting is an adventure, beginning with the search for a subject, and then finding natural features to accommodate myself and my gear. Then I paint for as long

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Loughborough Meadows (10 x 20 in.) Sold

15 October found me standing by a little creek meandering through a vast wet meadow, 6 km north of Battersea, in eastern Ontario's Frontenac Arch.  This is part of the Nature Conservancy of Canada's tract called the "Loughborough Wilderness". The once tall grasses of the meadow are now flattened and tawny, reminding me of a salt marsh at low tide. The meadows are bounded on three sides by massive ridges of rock covered with forest. The rocks can barely be seen among the trees from this distance, and the afternoon light was fading fast.

I had carried all of my painting gear out here, stepping carefully over dry lodged grasses, trying to avoid wet spots, and looking for a scene to paint, until I came to the creek and unburdened myself of paint caddy, easel, box of canvasses stool, and backpack. Then I took photos all around, and argued with myself for a long while over whether the sky, the creek, or the meadow should be most prominent in a painting, where the horizon should be in a composition, and how I should show the rocky underpinnings of the forest from such a great distance.

Finally I had three compositions planned, and the sun had set. As the light mellowed to evening, several marvellous things happened in different quarters of the sky. Great crests of cloud were combed by heavenly winds in different directions. I decided to paint sky and meadow both, with the narrow creek reflecting its blue, lavender, and grey between low tawny banks. I still