May 6, 2012
This little painting (6″ x 7.5″) is of Jamieson Creek, which is not even ten minutes drive from our front door. This is a desert-like region, featuring its own local cacti (which I discovered by way of my hand), and is called The Sunshine Capital of Canada. Water, while not scarce, has usage restrictions and homes are now being installed with water meters.
So to have the Jamieson splashing over and around rocks and fallen timbers is a great joy. It is the epitome of the ‘laughing brook’ of literature, and compliments the broad, slow-moving Thompson Rivers which run through town. Were it not for our rivers, Kamloops would be uninhabitable. Right now the creek and rivers are swelling from the melt-off of mountain snows. Kamloops itself is some 4,000 ft in elevation, the mountain snows are up that much higher, and June is when the river level is at its peak.
This painting was on the wall no longer than ten minutes before it was sold. My colleague in art, Lynda Jones, thought it complimented her pottery so well she went with her impulses. And that made my day.
February 10, 2012
For seven summers I was the cook for The British Columbia Natural History Society. In 1994 I graduated from The Dubruelle French Culinary School in Vancouver, and ran a kitchen at a small residence on the UBC Campus. This left my summers free, and I took on the task of prepping to feed upwards of sixty hikers at elevations upwards to some 3000 m., or approximately 10,000 ft.
It involved cooking and then packing vacuum-sealed , frozen meals in large chests with dry ice before joining the caravan of cars towards the mountain destination of choice. Once at the base, everything–including me–was hauled to the summit in a net-outfitted helicopter, and the business of setting up the huge kitchen and dining tents was begun. Frequently it was snowing up top–though only twenty minutes before I’d been roasting in the July heat–leaving me scrambling to find my parka.
The challenge was to get everything unboxed and laid out in some semblance of order–while ensuring the burners were properly hooked up to giant propane tanks–so that all-important first meal could be served some three hours later. After that, I could do the washing-up and at least semi-relax by first getting my little tent set up and then getting myself organized enough to be able to do breakfast when I awoke at 4 a.m.
By Day Three (of the ten day experience), it felt like I’d lived there my whole life, and could spend my days doing watercolours while the hikers tramped all over the rugged terrain carrying the bagged lunches they packed for themselves after dinner the night before. Once I’d served their breakfast, they’d stroll about with final cups of coffee making sure I overheard their latest Grizzly Bear spotting stories. Then they’d be off, leaving me sitting there all day minding that food all by myself.
Here is a painting from one of those seven summers. And though I can’t be entirely positive, I believe this particular view is from the Eastern British Columbia Mountain Range known simply as The Columbias.
And yes, I did see Grizzlies, but only from a distance.
February 1, 2012
The Old Schoolhouse in Pritchard on Duck Range Road was torn down last summer. It was in a farmer’s field–a farmer who’d gone to it as a child–and though he wanted to see it restored and taken over by the community, no one stepped forward to do so.
For years his horses used the school yard as their private pasture. Rain or shine–snow or sleet–anyone driving by would see them, the pair of steeds only momentarily looking up before resuming their grazing.
Finally, after numerous appeals to various groups to assume responsibility for the Old School, the farmer reluctantly went about making sure it didn’t collapse and possibly cause an accident. Someone told me it only took a couple of hours for it to be reduced to a pile of boards and beams. If one drives by now, the only thing left standing are the horses.
January 25, 2012
Watercolour has its limitations and its unique requirements. About the biggest challenge is the understanding that anything white in a watercolour is the paper left blank. So white clouds are achieved by painting blue around them. Whitecapped waves are accomplished by painting the dark part of the wave and leaving the paper white for the crest. The same goes for snow, of course, and really anything at all that’s white.
The famous British painter, J. M. W. Turner (23 April 1775 – 19 December 1851) is widely regarded as the artist who took watercolour to its pinnacle–who forced it to be considered a serious medium, alongside oil (though even today watercolour is not treated with the same gravitas as oil). His work is nothing short of astonishing. And apparently he often achieved some of his whites by ripping at the paper with a long fingernail.
My training was such that the use of opaque white was absolutely forbidden. It was considered a breaking of the most important ‘rule’ of watercolour: that only the white of the paper (called ‘reserved white’) was acceptable in a pure, transparent watercolour.
I have, though, been talked into letting myself experiment with a limited usage of opaque white. A great many watercolourists use it, though sparingly.
The following picture was my first attempt at using a bit of opaque white in the branches of the trees. The clouds, grasses, snow, and other whites were achieved by reserved whites (leaving the paper blank) and/or scratching out with a knife (my fingernails aren’t nearly long enough).
January 4, 2012
I was raised in Rochester, New York, and then later on the New York / Vermont border. At some point we had occasion to visit the town of Saranac Lake, New York, which hosted the 1980 Winter Olympics and much earlier in its history was one of North America’s best known tuberculosis sanatorium locales. Patients went there to receive plenty of sunshine and fresh air.
Kamloops, British Columbia, my present home, was also chosen as a prime location for a TB sanatorium and it was located just outside the city limits at Tranquille, B. C., beside Kamloops Lake. The air here is dry, without even a hint of humidity in the Summer and bracingly-cold in the Winter.
I loved staying in Saranac Lake that one week in January. The lake itself was completely frozen over, with a fresh layer of snow and a blindingly-bright sun.