Sunday, 5 November 2017

THE BOOTH

I came across this old photo of my wife, Sandra, and I, manning our booth at Buckhorn’s Wildlife & Art Festival many years ago. It was the first time that I exhibited professionally, and the beginning of what was to be many challenging years working at becoming an artist.





For those of you visiting my online booth, so to speak, I should explain that I didn’t just get out of school, and begin to work as an artist. No, although it is true that I briefly attended art school, long enough to realize that it’s extremely difficult to earn a living as an artist. No, after leaving school I worked at several jobs before becoming a licenced independant Insurance adjuster, something that I worked at for many years before deciding to return to art school and work at becoming an artist. Most of my friends believed that I was crazy, leaving a job for which I was well paid to become a “starving artist”. I assured them that if it didn’t work out that I’d go back to work, but of course I didn’t.

Years have passed since that first exhibition, and during that time I’ve worked my butt off learning about the business (politics) of art, new techniques, and becoming a writer and publisher. It’s all been very interesting. Given the chance, however, would I do it over again? Hell no! Becoming an artist is a life long, never attainable, ambition. There’s far too much suffering, and little thanks for your efforts. Still, I find that in my old age I’m still driven to try to become an artist, hopeful that after I’ve faded away that something that I’ve done will survive, at least for a few minutes, long enough to bring some moments of pleasure to the viewer.

Here’s a couple of field pencil sketches done by the old guy continuing to try to become an artist:-



We were up in Algonquin for a few days hoping to get in a couple of days sketching before the snow. Well, we beat the snow, but it was cold, and windy, and it rained almost every day of our stay. Needless to say that it was a bit of a bust. Still, it was worth experiencing Algonquin's many moods. Memories to be enjoyed, and perhaps, expanded upon back in the studio.


I also have a writing blog for this who might be interested in some poetry and prose from the old artist: www.mytimespentwriting.blogspot.ca

I also write and publish books relating to my art should you be interested in reviewing what I've written: - http://www.blurb.ca/b/5465186-where-raven-plays





Saturday, 28 October 2017

ROBIN'S SONG

It will soon be November when, we will no doubt, experience our first snow fall heralding the approach of winter. "White Hell", as I call it. I used to like winter spending time sledding, skiing, and playing hockey. Then, one day I woke up to find myself grey haired (balding actually), long in the tooth with bad knees and sore hips. So, we wait and watch as the birds at our feeders change from migratory species to the local residents such as nuthatches, chickadee, and woodpeckers. Most of our migratory bird species have flown south to their wintering grounds. We may get lucky yet and be visited by White-crown, or White-throated Sparrows, but other than that the only migratory bird that's still hanging around is an American Robin. There were several robins for awhile, but now we're down to one lone male. The reason that he's still here is because of our Flowering Crab Apple tree that's loaded with tiny apples. They're ripe to the point of falling off the tree, something the the robin seems to enjoy. It'll swallow two, or three apples, then take a few a break for a few minutes before returning for more. Soon, however, the apples will be gone, and the robin will also depart. Winter's up this way can be long, so when we next hear robin sing we're a bit overjoyed, as we know that spring is just around the corner.


Robin’s Song

When the days grow longer, and 
with snow still upon the ground,
Robin 
long before dawn,
wakes us with his morning song.

As spring changes to summer, and 
the days grow shorter,
Robin,
at dawn,
wakes us with his morning song.

But,
when the days grow shorter, and 
the nights grow colder, and
winter’s breath is in the air,
Robin 
no longer 
wakes us with his morning song.

When flurries turn to snow, and 
gather on the ground,
Robin sings one last song, and
is gone.

Throughout the winter 
silence reigns. 
We pine to hear a morning song.

And then one day,
as winter wilts away,
just before the dawn,
we hear a song, 
and rejoice to know, that
Robin has returned
to wake us with his morning song.

EAS



Downy Woodpecker
Had-coloured  Etching



Black-capped Chickadee                                Pencil Drawing



Red-breasted Nuthatch    Hand-coloured Etching

White-breasted Nuthatch    Pencil Drawing




BIRDS FLY

That birds fly is a marvel to behold.
Goldfinches twitter as they fly,
and eagles soar high up in the sky.
Vultures find a thermal,
and seemingly motionless,
float like kites.
Ravens dip and dive,
and play
on winds up high.
Chickadees flutter,
here and there.
Ducks and geese
make use of flight
and migrate to warmer climes
while we mere mortals 
can only stand and stare.

EAS

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

A LEAF FELL


This one time we went up to Algonquin Provincial Park in late October hoping to experience a few good days before the first snowfall. Fallen leaves lined the trails, and the Aspens and Tamaracks were beginning to turn a golden yellow. We hiked a number of trails including one of my favourites the Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail. It's a short, very easy trail to hike starting off through a spruce forest, then crossing the Sunday Creek Bog before reentering another spruce forest that leads to a small kettle bog. It's on the way to the small kettle bog that I find very interesting. The ground cover in this area consists of sphagnum moss, lichens and various species of fungi. Peering down onto this maze of plants from the boardwalk one can easily let your imagination run wild, and envision another world, a world inhabited by tiny creatures. As I peer into the maze I'm reminded of the sci-fi movie Avatar, and a moment in my life experienced when just a boy wandering the fields and forests that once existed near my family home.



A Leaf Fell

There was a time, one lazy summer day when still a youth, I went exploring.
I roamed through fields filled with golden grasses, and wild flowers.
I watched as butterflies flittered, bumblebees bumbled, and honey bees buzzed here and there.

Beyond the golden field a forest grew
its darkness dampened sound,
and from the top of a tall, old, tree,a leaf fell
and drifted lazily towards the ground.

An errant breeze caught the leaf before it struck the ground,
and swept it high up in the sky where it caught the wind,
and sailed away, an adventure just begun.

I wondered as it sailed away,
does a leaf, when it strikes the ground,
make a sound?

I came upon a  path less worn
that travelled through the darkened wood.
I stood, wondering, then slowly ambled in.

It was quiet in the dark, dank, wood.
Not a sound.

I looked around, my eyes adjusting to the darkness in the wood,
and came upon sights I’d never seen.
Toadstools, moss, and ferns of every sort
lived deep within the dampness of this wood.

I got down on my hands and knees, and
peered beneath the ferns.  Everything was tiny, a completely different world.
Snails, millipedes, spiders, and beetles, movement everywhere.

As I watched I wondered if those who lived within,
would hear a falling leaf as it struck the ground.

I continued down the path less worn leading deep within the wood,
exploring, observing, listening,
until the crickets, sang their evening song.

Doubting that I would ever go back, and wander down the path less worn,
I made a note, a memory kept, and stored away,
a reminder of a wondrous time, spent
one lazy summer’s day.

EAS

Saturday, 14 October 2017

The Library Discovered


I've been writing a memoir of sorts that I've titled "Fly on the Wall". It consists of a collection of prose and poetry. As there's a good chance that it won't be published any time soon, from time to time I plan to post bits of its content. The following relates to an event that had a profound affect on the direction taken in my life.

The Library Discovered

I was, let’s say eight years old going on nine years old, and in Miss Montgomery’s third grade class in Midland’s Sixth Street Public School. Sounds important, but it wasn’t. I was but one in a procession of children that attended Sixth Street Public School, an impressive, massive, somewhat gothic structure, one of several similar structures built strategically across the town employed in the attempt to train the children of illiterates how to become model English speaking, somewhat literate, workers to be eventually enslaved to help to fulfill the destiny of the merchant class. But, then, that’s another story.The important part of my recollection is the fact that while a student we were subjected to a class outing. We were marched across town, actually downtown, to the Public Library, and left in the charge of the librarian, Miss something, or other, with the instructions that after she was done with us,  we were to find our way home. Now my description of the events thus far might sound a bit draconian, but what happened, at least for me, was something wonderful. Yes, I learned that you must be quiet while visiting the library, but in addition I learned that books held the key to another world, other worlds actually, and a means to escape the reality of our dreary lives. Books became my best friend. My library card opened the door to knowledge. Between the hardcovers of a book were characters both fictional and non fictional who were willing to share their life experiences, yes adventures, revealing that with hard work and a bit of luck, all things were possible. I raced through the books in the children’s section of the library, and by the seventh grade was allowed to go upstairs to the adult library. I was in heaven. Here were books about science and art that revealed, at least to me, that with study and hard work, and a lot of money, all things were possible. Money, a five letter word that rolls off of the tongue, but then sticks to your very soul like a slap in the face, easy to say, but difficult, very difficult to obtain. I went to work, working while going to school. A bad mix I soon learned. I fumbled my way through school, and at the end learned that whereas it takes two to tango, money doesn’t always lead to success. Still, at the end of the day I still had a dream, a desire to become something, and become like the writers behind the characters in the books, and share my experiences through marks on paper and written words. I worked for years, a lifetime it sometimes seemed, at things interesting, but not as I had dreamed. Still, it was as it was, I held close to my dream, and low and behold somehow, between misery and joy, I’m now where I wanted to be. I’ve become an artist, a writer, and a publisher of sorts, and through it all have learned that money, though important, is not the end-all. If I could roll back time and start all over again, a boy of just nine, I’d stick to the books and make go on a dime. Knowledge is priceless, and the word is the key to success, and to happiness above all.







Tuesday, 19 September 2017

MEMORIES WRITTEN



Common Loons        Tyson Lake        Pencil Drawing

Memories written,
but never read,
are only words
    that 
                    fade 
                                        away.



We recently spent a few days up in Algonquin Provincial Park. We’ve been going up there at all times of the year for several decades. In summer it’s more to meet with friends, and and catch up on events that have occurred in each others lives. Lately, it’s been more about learning about health issues as we seem to all be sailing off into some voyage of unknown consequence, called old age. In the early fall, or autumn, whatever you prefer to call it, we go up to the park to enjoy a bit of quiet, and to watch the leaves change colour. After Labour Day, with the children having returned to school, the park is a bit quieter, more the place of solitude that we’ve come to enjoy. Although, with Canada’s changing demographics, the park seems now to be frequented with many persons from away, and the various hiking trail parking areas, even at this time of the year, seem busier than in years past. Sometimes we go up to the park just before the first snow, late October, sometimes in November. It’s that time of the year when Nature seems to pause, and take a deep breathe, before the arrival of winter. It’s cold that’s true, and the leaves are off the deciduous trees, but at the same time it’s peaceful and very quiet. Out on the lakes we sometimes see and hear Common Loons that have chosen to linger, reluctant it seems to give up this place of quiet solitude, before heading south to their wintering grounds.



Common Loon     Photograph by Sandra Somers

Years gone by Sandra and I did a lot of paddling on northern lakes enjoying countless encounters with Common Loons. Sandra was quite into photography at that time, and exhibited professionally.  We'd encounter a loon, and paddling quietly, watching them dive and anticipating where they would surface, we managed to get quite close enabling Sandra to get some very good photographs. On one occasion, as I recall, a loon surface so close to the canoe that we had to back up in order for Sandra to focus her camera. 

The Common Loon was the subject of some of my work during the years that I exhibited my wildlife paintings and etchings. Memories of wonderful moments experiencing Canada's natural heritage.

Common Loon  Etching & Aquatint



Still Waters - Common Loon    Coloured Etching & Aquatint


The etching Still Waters came about as the result of an evening paddle on a northern Ontario lake. It was one of those evenings when the setting sun caused a dramatic reflection on perfectly still water. While paddling a Common Loon surfaced directly in front of our canoe. Years later I wrote a poem describing the experience.

STILL WATERS

On a northern lake,
the twilight’s quiet is broken
by the haunting cry
of a Common loon.

Our canoe floats,
between sky and water
in the twilight’s reflection.

Paddling silently,
we drift,
anticipating.

The loon surfaces at our bow,
aware,
undisturbed.
Its reflection
fills the ripples of its forward motion.

It dips its head,
dives,
and disappears
into the dark,
deep,
still waters.

                                                         EAS.


Common Loon - Disturbed   Etching & Aquatint



Common Loons    Pen & Ink Drawing



Still Waters - Common Loon   Etching & Aquatint  



On one occasion very early in the morning, before  the rising sun had dismissed the morning mist, while paddling down Whitefish Lake in Algonquin a Common Loon flew across the bow of our canoe. I made a quick sketch and later made an acrylic painting.

Common Loon - Whitefish lake, Algonquin       Acrylic Painting



Sunday, 3 September 2017

WHERE HAVE ALL THE SWALLOWS GONE?

Where Have All The Swallows Gone?

It’s early September, but there are already signs of autumn aplenty, cool mornings, the odd tree that has changed colour, geese migrating, and sightings of confusing fall warblers as they begin to migrate south to their wintering grounds.

Used to be at this time of the year we’d head out to the nearby marsh to view migrating swallows. Come the evening twilight the limbs of the dead trees out on the marsh would be laden with thousands of different migrating species of swallows. It was an incredible sight. The mass of swallows would grow for several days, then when the weather was favourable, the swallows would migrate enmass. One evening their would be thousand of swallows clinging to every available branch, and the next morning they would be gone save one, or two, who no doubt were dozing when the order was given, and found themselves left behind. 

It’s different today, few swallows nest in the marsh area, just a few Tree Swallows where at one time there were, in addition to Tree Swallows, a good number of Barn and Bank Swallows and Purple Martins. In fact, it’s been a couple of years since I’ve even seen a Bank, or Barn Swallow. Unfortunately, it’s not just at the marsh that we visit, but all over Ontario the swallow numbers are down dramatically, as much as 65% by some estimates. I’m not surprised, what with urban development seemingly out of control, much of the swallow habitat is disappearing.

It’s sad what we’re doing, however, most persons are not aware wrapped up in their complicated lives, struggling to survive in our screwed up world. I can only hope that the swallows will make a comeback. In the meantime, I can say that once upon a time there were Barn Swallows aplenty, a marvel to behold as they skimmed the surface of ponds and marshes feeding on flying insects, and that I was once privileged to witness their comings and goings.


Pencil study of adult Barn Swallow

Pencil study of immature Barn Swallow



Mixed media - pencil and watercolour     Barn Swallows  1984


Barn Swallows   Watercolour Painting

Friday, 1 September 2017

ALGONQUIN PROVINCIAL PARK - The Hills Have Gotten Higher - Post Glacial Rebound

Have you ever heard of “Post Glacial Rebound”. Well, this old guy, that I know very well, experienced it first hand when he recently vacationed in Algonquin Provincial Park. 

You see, he’d been going up to the park for some 40 years, or more, and during this time had hiked most every trail. However, growing old(er), with failing legs the search for a trail neither difficult, nor easy, something in between, was becoming more and more difficult to find. This one day a young couple with two teenage daughters had been on to him to suggest a trail for the family to hike together. He’d thought for a few minutes then came up with the Highlands Hiking Trail. Now, if you were to hike the entire trail you’re into an overnight, two day, somewhat arduous hike, but if you hiked from the parking area just off Highway 60, and travel  to the bridge over the Madawaska River and return on the same trail, then it would involve only an afternoon, perhaps, no more than 3-4 hours. He hadn’t hiked the trail for several years, but remembered that despite a couple of hilly parts the trail was not difficult, passed by a lookout onto Mew Lake, and ended at a pleasant picnic ares with a small waterfall. Yes, as he was remembering he recalled pleasant moments picnicking and soaking one’s tired feet in the cool water of the river before heading on up to Provoking Lake. Good times, very good times, once upon a time. So, without hesitation he recommended the trail to the young couple with the two teenage daughters.

The next day coming upon the young couple he enquired about their hiking experience. Turned out that they had hiked the trail for no more than a half hour, and had given up believing that the trail was too arduous. The old guy was taken aback, and could only shake his head and think that the young couple and their teenage daughters were  sadly out of shape.

To prove this point the following day he and his wife decided to hike the Highlands Hiking Trail into the Madawaska River. It was a beautiful day, sunny, not too hot, and not too cold. A perfect day actually, and made even more perfect by the fact that his leg and feet were aching only minimally. Over the years the wearing of improperly fitting foot ware had permanently damaged his legs, and feet. It was the times. Off the shelve shoes and boots were not of the best quality forcing one to fight through the discomfort and painful calluses. Now, he was suffering with scarcely a good day to be had. Best, he thought, to take advantage of this good day and challenge the trail.

From the parking lot there was a slight rise onto the trail proper, then a flat stretch and another gradual rise leading to a “hill”. “Funny", he thought, "I don’t remember this hill". They climbed the hill, went down the other side and were greeted by another steeper meandering hill made difficult by exposed tree roots forcing one to sidestep, and almost climb up over the depressions made by years of foot traffic. One hill seemed to lead to another hill. He began to believe that he’d gotten the various trails mixed up in his head, and at the top of one of the hills he even had thoughts of turning around and heading back. Both he and his wife were puffing, and they weren’t even halfway to the Madawaska River. They rested for a few minutes then decided that they’d continue on, at least to the lookout over Mew Lake. Fifteen minutes later, after climbing the seemingly longest hill that they’d ever climbed, they reached the outlook. They rested, enjoyed the view, and thought to continue on. Afterall, going back woud be all downhill, wouldn’t it? They continued on, down from the outlook to a relatively flat area then on a bit and around a corner, and came face to face with another steep hill. They both looked at each other, and without saying anything turned around, and headed back to the trailhead. Many pauses later to inspect mushrooms and plant growth along the way found them back at the trailhead, legs barely moving and ready to be elevated. 






While driving back to the resort the old guy thought to himself that  yes, it was true that they were older, that they had bad legs and tired hearts, but there must be some other reason for the trail to seem so much harder than they’d experience years before. Then, it dawned on him, 12,000 years ago there was a mile high glacier sitiing on this area. With the glaciers receding a great weight was taken off the area and the land would rise. "Post Glacial Rebound”, that’s what it was called. No doubt during the years between their last hiking the trail the land had risen, and the hills had gotten higher. “Yes”, he thought to himself, “That was it, it had nothing to do with growing old(er).”

Getting serious for a moment, Post Glacial Rebound had nothing to do with the old guy’s problem. He’s loathe to admit it, but he is getting old(er). Oh, it’s true, over the years the hills on the trail have, during his lifetime, gotten a bit higher, but only by a few millimetres. 

Changing the subject, and the key word here is change, Algonquin, the Earth for that matter, has undergone tremendous change since the last Ice Age, and the change is still going on. In part it’s a natural phenomenon, or cycle, that the Earth goes through, from an Ice Age to a period where the Earth heats up dramatically before heading back into another Ice Age.  It’s referred to as Global Warming, and unfortunately the acceleration of this natural phenomenon is probably due to human activities. Yes, it’s true, I admit it, humans have had a hand in ramping up Global Warming, but like Post Glacial Rebound, only by a tiny bit. Unfortunately, this little bit seems to have sped up the process. How did we do it? If we turn back time a few thousand years the cause becomes quite obvious. It has to do with the  first seed being planted and our moved away from being hunter gathers, and becoming farmers. The result was an ever increasing human population, the needs of of which resulted in an never ending need for more and more energy, resulting in the production of excess CO2 causing the acceleration of global warming. Unfortunately, as no one is prepared to reduce the ever increasing world population, we have a real dilemna. Some believe that we should change our source of power from non renewable sources such as coal and oil, to renewable sources such as wind and solar energy, and that this will stop global warming. Wishful thinking, I believe. It’s sort of like throwing a glass of water on a roaring campfire, there’s a sizzle, a bit of steam, and the campfire roars back to life. The scary part about global warming is that the intelligentsia is plotting to leave planet Earth for Mars, the moon, or anywhere possible to avoid what’s happening on Earth. It’s as if they know something that we don’t. Change will occur, of that there’s no doubt. Like dominos falling, there’s no way to stop this natural phenomenon. Hopefully, we can learn to adapt, and, eventually, come to grips with reality enabling humans to survive on planet Earth for another few thousand years.

As for the old guy, well he’s finally admitted that he’s old, and that it’s time to slow down a bit.  However, for now he intends to continue to challenge the trails, and make the odd sketch here and there, all the while enjoying the solitude that is Algonquin Provincial Park.

Algonquin - View From The Corridor   P&I Sketch 2017

Norther Landscape  P&I Sketch  2017