Thursday, April 10, 2014

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

"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.) Sold

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

Friday, December 13, 2013

Not Fishing Lake (oil on canvas 6 x 8 in.)

14 October found us driving back on Fishing Lake Road at sunset, after a day of exploration in the Nature Conservancy of Canada's Frontenac Arch Natural Area. This road runs along a height of land, a granite ridge that has been cleared for a pair of hydro lines on giant steel towers. The long pond lies far below, between us and another granite ridge that is forested. This lovely view of the pond greeted us as soon as we met the hydro right-of-way, driving up into the grassy open landscape from the woods.

Fishing Lake itself is not visible from Fishing Lake Road. We had hoped to see whether any clams live in it, particularly the rare Ligumia nasuta, listed as a "Species At Risk" - but the only access to the lake by vehicle is a private laneway. The pond edge is lined with pale green duckweed, a thin line of it shows along the wetland on the far side, and a broader patch on this side, at the lower left of my painting.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

the Fred Calendar for 2014

One thing that very few people have witnessed is how charming my husband Fred Schueler looks when he's writing field notes. He's part of the landscape. From a few moments to several minutes, he's nearly as motionless as a rock or a tree. Fred is embedded in a scene as he's working to describe it. The light reflects from his vest, his hat, his hands, his beard, in the same way as it from everything around him - and everything around him is vulnerable to being noted by his pen, and soon entered into

Friday, December 6, 2013

High Country Juniper (oil on canvas 5 x 7 in.)

October 14 found us again in the Frontenac Arch, making another traverse of Fishing Lake Road. We stopped at this granite outcrop with Juniper to look for Skinks. The sun was warm and the Juniper's shadow was long. The season is too late for Skinks, however and the weather is cool. Fishing Lake Road runs at first through forests of Maple, Oak, and pine, and then rises to follow the crest of ridges cleared for a huge hydro power line - grassland with outcrops of

Monday, November 18, 2013

Festival of the Whirligigs (oil on canvas 6 x 8 in.)

18 October finds me painting from the canoe, as whirligig beetles cavort on the mirror-dark water of the south end of Elbow Lake, 5.5 km northwest of Battersea, Ontario.  The canoe is tied to a repeatedly-sprouting Beaver-felled Red Maple in a lee from the wind. The wind is still flexing the regrown brush-like tops of the White Pine across the water. The bay is covered with patches of Nuphar - Yellow Waterlily, with all the flowerheads nipped off and their stems protruding from the water. I am barely able to

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Burreed Caligraphy (oil on canvas 5 x 7 in.)

5 November finds me painting on the south shore of the Ottawa River, at the end of a path from Francois du Pont Park, just west of Petrie Island. The thin curved leaves of Burr Reed draw calligraphic reflections on the water in a language unknown to me, but obvious to the river edge. As I sit painting, the meaning soaks in, elegant and clear. If the invasive European Reed, Phragmites australis were growing here, not only would it crowd out the native Burr reed, but the river would be entirely hidden from view except from higher up and farther back. 

As Fred and Owen have been surveying these Ottawa River marshes for Unionids, they've been impressed by the dominance of Burreed (Sparganium). The haven't seen any Phragmites, invasive or native, and only a few patches of Cattails, usually the probably-alien Typha angustifolia. Nothing could be more superficially different than a Burreed's spherical fruit-head of protruding spikes, and a Cattail's stalk of compacted fluff. They both have buried rhizomes

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Hawkridge Chipmunk (oil on canvas, 6 x 8 in.) Sold

17 October finds me painting just below the high granite crest of of Hawkridge, north of Morton, Ontario. The trees are part of the sky here, and I am part of the leaves and the mossy, lichen rocks. The pastoral landscape below, seen through the thin tray tree trunks and what's left of their autumn leaves, is soft and blurry like a smudged pastel drawing. Blue Jays echo their voices back and forth across the crest of this high granite ridge, and a White Breasted Nuthatch honks a few times. 

I am painting the wall of the top of the ridge, where stands the straight trunk of a Maple that is all gnarled and twisted from eight to twelve feet above the cliff edge. When Fred and I stood at the edge of the cliff, just above where I sit now, I photographed the mid section of the tree, considering it as the subject of a painting - a rather macabre portrait of a tree twisted and tortured by some mysterious influence, some effect of growing up past the edge of the cliff, and exposed to the weather atop Hawkridge.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Frontenac Rock Face With Rock Tripe (oil on canvas, 8 x 16 in.) Sold

14 October finds me painting a lichened rock face in the woods along the Fishing Lake Road in the Frontenac Axis north of Battersea, Ontario.

"Don't say That's a nice view to paint," I tell myself. "Say, This is compelling! Should it be 11 x 14 horizontal to show the ferns and rock tripe below the forest - or portrait shape? The mosses and lichens are flowing down the face of the rock, following the  crevice like a waterfall, so it must be a narrow vertical. THAT is compelling!"

The touselled patch of Rock Tripe curls like hand-size scraps of wet canvas painted dull olive green, showing their black velvet undersides where the edges turn up. Some kind of woodsy Goldenrod leans toward the left from a patch of Polypody near the centre of the scene, and I decide to include it for its energy - though it is just a thread of stem with narrow leaves, punctuated toward its tip by a strung out constellation of fluffy spent flowers.

Compared with the strong contrasts of the rock face, the woods above the ledge are soft and pale, trees glowing in autumn sunshine and showing a bit of pale blue sky. Large Red Oak leaves poise like hands making gestures among the stems of Honeysuckle at the crest of the rock face, and fallen Sugar Maple leaves make vermillion accents where they lodge among the Dryopteris ferns near the top.