Friday, August 29, 2014

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.)

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.)

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