I was in Algonquin Park on a five day canoeing ,camping, painting trip with three men. I felt a bit like Emily Carr being invited to go and paint with the boys. It rained four out of five days, but it was a trip to remember for sure. One particular afternoon, I climbed up a cliff for a better viewpoint to jot down a quick watercolour sketch of Burnt Island Lake. I only had a few minutes to get down the fast approaching storm coming. The air was heavy with moisture, and the birds weren't singing and nothing was moving...it was so still...the calm before the storm. Then I saw the sky darken with ominous blues and purples smothering the colours of the land with their veil of light. A finger of clouds edged along the sky wiggling and writhing across the horizon, squeezing out the last rays of light. Then...crack...kaboom...and it started with a heavy downpour. At least I got my little sketch done in time before the storm hit.
The little sketch sat tucked away for a few years, waiting to become a full fledged painting. Well in 2011 it finally happened, when the annual gallery challenge was issued from Muskoka Arts and Crafts to create a piece of art in the style of a famous artist who inspired me. Well hands down...it just had to be A.J. Casson for me. I had the opportunity of a lifetime to meet A.J. when I was about eight years old. My parents owned a resort on the doorstep of Algonquin Park called Timber Trail from 1965-1988. Casson used to come to the Oxtongue area to paint. One day he asked permission from my dad to go down to paint the landscape from our beach by the Oxtongue River.
I didn't know who he was from Adam at the time, all I knew was that he was a real artist and I wanted to meet him and watch him paint. He had positioned himself on the beach with his easel all set up and his paint box out painting the scene facing him looking upriver. I approached with caution not knowing if he would let me stay. I remember clearing my throat to get his attention and asking him quietly and politely if I could stay and watch him paint. Well...he kind of eyeballed me over...and kind of grumbled a bit...and then he said.."I guess it's OK as long as you don't ask me any questions". I nodded obligingly and froze on the spot and didn't move an inch so I could stay and watch him paint. I didn't know who he even was until I asked my dad later on. I figured if this old guy finds my backyard interesting to paint then so do I, and with that thought it finalized my decision to become an artist when I grew up.
To this day, I still respect, honour and cherish the land and its many moods and seasons. I don't take it for granted for a second and have never outgrown my child-like sense of awe and wonder in nature and living things. As I mature as an artist I find my work delves deeper into this love affair with the land into more of a responsibility to preserve and protect the very thing that brings me joy. Consequently my art is also a form of stewardship and reflects the gift I have been given to share the joy and wonder that I see, but also as a call out to protect it for future generations.
STORM COMING-BURNT ISLAND LAKE was painted from my memory of that trip and from a tiny watercolour sketch no bigger than 5x7. It finally become what it was meant to be...a unique record in time about the power of nature.
I hope you get to enjoy some summer storms like this one to add to your memories! HAVE A GREAT SUMMER!