February 26, 2012
The landscape of Kamloops, British Columbia, (native word meaning ‘dividing of waters’–the Thompson River divides mid-city to create the North and South Thompson), varies remarkably.
Think of a city at 1132 ft. elevation with homes built in terraced-layers down one mountainside and up another, all finding bottom along the broad Thompson River which attracted the attention of The Hudson Bay Company in 1811. Since then Kamloops has become a train hub, a location for gold prospectors seeking their fortunes, and more recently a centre for the forest industry.
It is arid here. Summers are hot and dry, and rain is an event. Winters are cold, windy, with average amounts of snow, and a major spot for skiers and snowboarders at the highest elevations. When I walk the dog at 5 a.m., I always hear owls and sometimes coyotes, and occasionally spot a few deer searching for something in the yards below the mountain ridge we hug up against. I’ve also come across black bear in the car port, and seen the evidence of moose.
This painting is of what’s locally referred to as The Silt Bluffs. They feature hoodoos, free-standing rock formations caused by wind erosion.
The most prevalent raptors in our area are the Red-Tailed Hawk, Golden and Bald Eagles, Osprey, and Turkey Vultures.
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 28, 2012
Gettysburg. The very name sends all manner of emotion through my heart and out the other side.
I began studying this famous American Civil War Battle (July 1,2,3, 1863) some twenty years ago and then in 2001 I simply bought a plane ticket and up and went there to see the place for myself. My sister and brother-in-law met me in Syracuse, New York, and drove me down to Southern Pennsylvania to spend five days absorbing the importance of those hallowed forests and fields.
I’m no fan of war, believe me. But having been born an American yet having now lived more than half my life as a Canadian, I study the differences between the two countries. Both British Colonies, the one revolted over taxes and the other still has The British Monarch as its Head of State. One couldn’t find the means to end slavery peacefully, while the other saw it dissolved once and for all under Britain’s 1834 Slavery Abolition Act.
Having studied in detail The Battle of Gettysburg, and while there in June of 2001, I brought along my paints and did on-the-spot watercolour sketches of the most poignantly-historic locations among those now-peaceful fields.
On July 3rd, 1863, on a stiflingly-hot afternoon, after two entire hours of constant cannon bombardment of the Yankee position on Cemetery Ridge, General Robert E. Lee ordered a massive charge across a mile-wide expanse of field. This was the concluding, and most desperate action of the horrific three days as tens of thousands Southern troops marched shoulder-to-shoulder into the deadly cannonading of Northern forces.
They were instructed to aim for an inconspicuous, yet noticeable ‘copse of trees’, dead centre in the Union Line. Only one hundred or so made that destination, the more than 20,000 others suffering an indescribable onslaught of cannon and massed rifle fire.
After painting this little painting, I solemnly walked the distance to those trees. It was a sobering, awful, respectfully-difficult-yet-important mile-long journey through the wind-blown grasses of a place now very hushed and calm. I’ve never been quite the same before, or since.
What an enormous difference between two neighbouring countries, all due to differing attitudes to being deemed ‘Colonists’.
January 24, 2012
Locarno Beach in Vancouver, British Columbia, is named after a Peace Conference held in Locarno, Switzerland in 1925. It is one of several lining English Bay facing West Vancouver, and usually looks like this . . .
The particular day I chose to paint the Bay started off nicely enough, but gradually went from blue skies to dark clouds, to high winds and pelting rain. Once I had my materials spread out over one of the conveniently situated beached logs, I didn’t want to give in to a bit of ‘weather’. Yet, the rain came in gusty sheets and finally forced me to give in or lose what little picture I’d managed to throw together up till then . . . .
If you live in a particularly arid part of the planet and need some precipitation, just invite me to come and start a watercolour.
January 23, 2012
Golden Ears Provincial Park is one of the largest in British Columbia (over 62,500 hectares;1 hectare=2.47 acres) and features the pristine Alouette Lake. It also has three campgrounds and hiking trails through extremely rugged terrain. Vegetation is typical of the coastal western Hemlock forest of BC and the mountainous backcountry is not only rugged but has–almost annually–proven fatal to the unprepared. Those who go off are cautioned to understand what they’re getting themselves into.
Normally, Alouette Lake looks just like this . . .
But the day I attempted to paint this scene, it started out very foggy, then changed to drizzle, then showed some promise of clearing-up. I was in the camping area that was the most primitive, and of course only when I decided to begin painting did it actually start to full-out pour. By then I was so into it that I had to keep going, even though drops were falling directly onto my work-in-progress (though I did have a make-shift tarp). But to this day, this is one of my most favourite paintings because even though it has its distortions, I didn’t give in and stayed until I finished it . . .
I can still smell the coleman stove coffee and feel the warmth of the mug against my numb fingers as I celebrated by putting my brushes away–and swearing I’d never paint another #%$#!@# watercolour again in my life.
January 22, 2012
The natural rock formation known as Arch Cape is located along the Pacific coast and is 3.8 miles south of Cannon Beach, Oregon–in the extreme southwestern part of Clatsop County. For a few summers at the turn of the century ( ! ) I took my old Volkswagen camper van to various locations along the Oregon Coast, which is simply a watercolourist’s dream come true.
This painting has a story because I was so near the water that I began realising the tide was coming in. Not wanting to abandon things, I just kept at it . . . . until finally a big wave swept over my feet and dragged everything out into the surf! I was scrambling to rescue all my stuff. For that reason, this particular piece had to be done in the studio relying on my ruined attempt and the useful guidance of fellow painter E. J. Fitzgerald who helped me with composition and the treatment of the waves.
January 21, 2012
To look up the face of Mount Peter– (the sibling of the larger Mount Paul), the signature mountains overlooking our city of Kamloops, B. C.–is to look upon the core of a mountain. These are mountains so ancient, all that remains are the inner cores–their souls. Time and erosion have scarred and left them displaying a beauty it takes the eye a while to appreciate.
The roads about their base feature yellow diamond warning signs cautioning drivers to watch for Big Horn Sheep.
As a watercolourist, it took me a good two years before I attempted the challenge. They are unusual subjects, and not easily rendered. It was wise for me to wait, simply because I was so accustomed to the forested peaks of the Coastal Mountains that I regarded these as ugly. Until they finally become beautiful to the newly-arrived, these ancient and weather worn heights are probably best not attempted at all by art enthusiasts like me.
January 19, 2012
Ten percent larger than New York’s Central Park, is Vancouver’s Stanley Park–1001 acres of enormous cedars, Totems, hidden pathways, creeks, ponds, ocean views, as well an amphitheatre and The Vancouver Aquarium. It was named after Lord Stanley, the Governor General of Canada in 1888 (and also the person who donated the famous Stanley Cup for the emerging hockey teams of the day to compete for). Lord Stanley became the first Governor General to visit British Columbia when the Park was being dedicated.
This painting was done on location within the Park while sitting on one of the many available sand-encased logs. The spot is known simply as Third Beach, and looks out towards a very distant (not always visible–and not in this painting) Vancouver Island.
It took most of the day, and while there a baby seal washed up on shore. Being tied down to all my spread-out gear, I called out to those closest. Mobile phones weren’t as prevalent then as now, and it took the gathering crowd quite a while before attendants from The Vancouver Aquarium came to rescue the little guy. They have an adoption program which results in a release later on after the animals have matured.
January 14, 2012
From ‘wikipedia’: ”One of the many reasons for the failure of the attempted Japanese pacification of the Philippines during their 1941-1945 occupation was their indifference to the basics of the Filipino economy. The carabaos provided the necessary labor that allowed Filipino farmers to grow rice and other staples. Japanese army patrols would not only confiscate the rice but would also slaughter the carabaos for meat, thereby preventing the farmers from growing enough rice to feed the large population. Before World War II, there were an estimated three million carabaos in the Philippines. By the end of the War it is estimated that nearly 70% of them had been lost. . . .”
There is no beauty like the beauty of a rice field. There is no green like the green of ripening rice. And there’s no more engaging activity than watching the many daily phases involved in managing a rice field throughout the growing season.
January 9, 2012
Within the Kamloops city limits lies The Lac du Bois Grasslands Protected Area, dedicated to preserving native grasslands and the sweeping vistas of this special region. Old time ranching and a culture of horses and cattle survives.
This is a region of British Columbia with wide open spaces, with sagebrush and cactus and Ponderosa Pines. It’s a land of Eagles, Hawks, Owls and Ospreys. Through it winds the North and South Thompson Rivers and above their winding, watery ribbons is high country.
January 5, 2012
My home, Kamloops, British Columbia, goes back as far as 1811 when the first of several trading outposts were established, later to be consolidated under The Hudson’s Bay Company. The word, Kamloops, is native and means ‘the joining of two waters’ which refers to the dividing of the Thompson River into North and South.
This happens below the twin iconic mountains named Peter and Paul. The mountains of this part of the Interior are not the heavily-forested, jagged-peaked ‘Alps’-type mountains, but rather some of the most ancient mountains to be found anywhere. They are worn to the point where their cores are visible, and therefore feature few trees, much wind-etched character and wind-eroded, free-standing forms known as ‘hoo doos’.
At first I regarded Peter and Paul as barren and ugly. Four years later, I’m continuously fascinated by their craggy power and rawness. Like Jerusalem and the Old City, our mountains turn golden in the setting sun and their surfaces mirror the face of the sky.
My first venture into depicting Mounts Peter and Paul was done with trepidation. These are exceedingly difficult subjects because of their rocky nakedness and unusual markings. On a dull day they simply look like the leftovers of a beach-washed sand castle, and what I needed to do was capture their spirit when worshipped by the sun and caressed by the moon.
another in moonlight . . .
Still another painting of Peter and Paul was done from their rear, featuring Fort House which is the subject of a moonlit snow scene earlier in this blog . . .
And then there is this dramatic depiction of Peter and Paul in the height of summer . . . .
The only one still available is this last one. But definitely there will be more in the works!