The Finnish composer (seven symphonies, including ‘Finlandia’) is memorialized in a tidy little one acre park in The Annex area of Toronto, Canada, nestled on four sides by its red brick house neighbourhood.

The Vancouver Sun’s long-serving investigative reporter and author, Douglas Todd, [https://vancouversun.com/author/douglastodd2/page/2], commissioned a watercolour of this familiar setting he and I knew well when living nearby while in a theatre company commune in the mid-1970s.

A striking memorial was donated by Toronto’s Finnish community in 1959 and the park–originally known as Kendal Square–was renamed Jean Sibelius Square Park. In 2010, the park was officially reopened after a major redesign equipped it with an extensive playground and enhanced outdoor skating rink.

Approaching this watercolour commission, it seemed most appropriate to laden it with a 1970s feel–visually allowing Doug and my memories of Sibelius Park to surface and suffuse the painting with an autumnal feel.

A decision has been made to sacrifice accuracy to the bringing up from deep memories a vision of what we both recall and felt about this little space–this oasis from the complicated goings-on within our nearby commune. And we both remembered it being nearly always empty of people, strewn with fallen leaves, lit by street lamps, smelling slightly of wood smoke from the chimneys of the surrounding substantial, Victorian brick homes of the established Annex community.

Therefore, the end result will disappoint anyone currently familiar with Jean Sibelius Square, and its revitalized, playground-dominated landscape, as well as those who may live around it. None of the actual homes will be depicted, rather homes springing from our memory of those homes are being brought to the surface.

ocean study

August 22, 2015

For many years I lived in Vancouver, B. C., which is considered one of the top 3 ‘most livable’ cities in the world.  One of its best features is being surrounded by water on three sides.  On one occasion I was painting a view from Locarno, one of the many beaches, and was suddenly overcome by a summer storm.  It seemed to descend out of nowhere.

As I was not going to escape getting soaked, I soldiered-on and managed to get as much as I could onto paper without the deluge completely washing away everything while working.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

‘ocean study Locarno Beach‘, Vancouver, 13cm x 18cm (5″ x 7″)

Fortunately I had some sort of makeshift shelter–even so, rain splattered onto the painting as I worked.

Painting on location has its rewards as well as its hazards.  In those years, I wouldn’t paint at all unless it was outdoors. I was something of a purist, and felt watercolour was meant to be done on location–its immediacy and qualities almost demand it being put to use that way. But bad knees are what they are, and now I almost can’t imagine having to go do that again–which is really a shame.  Working from photographs is not my idea of what watercolour should be about.

%d bloggers like this: