Thursday, 16 March 2017

THE HUMAN RACE


I'm what you'd say, mildly interested, in this space exploration thing, but not from the standpoint of mankind actually undertaking such a leap. Frankly, I don't think that it's necessary to send people to the moon, or to Mars, nor does it make any sense to establish actually colonies. As far as terraforming Mars, or altering, or enhancing, its magnetic shield to make it more habitable, I believe that this is totally insane. Why? What do we hope to prove?

There are some that believe that by establishing a permanent colony on Mars we can preserve humanity's memory in the event that we are successful in wiping our existence off the face of the Earth by some means, or another, or in the event that the Earth might be struck by a meteor of a size that would cause a mass extinction event. No one seems to realize, however, that the moon and Mars could easily suffer similar fates. In fact the fate of a Mars colony is questionable at best. Without an enhanced magnetic shield Mars will continue to lose what oxygen it has trapped, and will be as vulnerable as Earth to being struck by a meteor of extinction size. Also, what happens if terraforming fails, and Mars is dependent upon being resupplied from Earth, and Earth's inhabitants are wiped out. Obviously it's goodbye any evidence that humans existed.

This idea that by establishing a permanent colony on Mars is a means of saving humanity in the event that Earth is rendered uninhabitable is in itself wishful thinking, as it has come to light that in order to survive on Mars, or in space, longterm, it will necessitate in physical, and chemical alterations to our species. Whereas, apparently, it has taken a million years for humanity to take the shape and form present today, on Mars humanity would undergo a transformation into another species within 6,000 years. So much for saving humanity.

There's another thing to consider should humans discover life be it a virus, or bacteria, on Mars, can we let Mars explorers return to Earth? The risk that they would be contaminated, in my opinion, would be too great. I know, it's all science fiction, but then a little over a hundred years ago atomic power, and space travel, was just science fiction.

We're on the cusp of developing artificial intelligence to a level far superior to a humans ability. Employing A.I. to carry out the exploration of Mars, and beyond, and to complete tasks deemed essential to the success of our survival will be far less expensive than fullfiling the childhood dreams of a few billionaires, and the brilliant minds of a younger generation that has been taken in with the thought that they are part of something immensely important to humanity.

I'm a bit of a naturalist. I'm fascinated by nature, and its many amazing creatures. Some of you may be very religious and believe that when you die you go to a better place, a place some call heaven. I have a difficult time grasping this concept believing that we've already found paradise. Paradise is here, it's all around us. Stop for a moment, and look around. Why are we in such a rush to leave this paradise for something harsh, and unrealistic? It really doesn't make sense, and I believe that if those in a rush to leave could take a moment away from their competitive nature, and think of their children, and future generations, they too might come to understand that saving this paradise is far more important than the realization of a child's fantasy.

I'm finding these days that I do more writing than sketching and painting. My sketching and painting of late has been done to help with the completion of a book project. As I grow older I find that everything seems to take longer to complete. Still I'm carrying on, part of my parent's decision, and the chance of my being, and becoming a part of the Human Race:-


Many years ago I joined the human race,
a race to where,
no one knows.

Yet,
regardless of race, 
physical ability, 
or religious beliefs,
everyone must join the race.

At the start confusion reigns.
The race,
already underway,
is filled with competitors
stretched 
as far as the eye can see.

At first I raced with children,
their parents cheered them on.
But, as the race continued, 
and the participants 
grew older, 
the cheering crowd 
grew thinner.
Family members mostly,
as far as I could see.

The years,
they passed so quickly.
The race continued on.
The finish line, 
no where in sight.

And as I ran I noticed
the cheering crowd 
grow thinner.

And then, 
one day,
the finish line came into sight.

I looked about,
and was shocked to see
that there were few onlookers,
no cheers,
just silence,
and just me.

Vision blurring, 
I continue racing, 
to where ..... 

I do not know.


EAS

For those of you interested in sketches and paintings, instead of my ramblings, here are a few sketches and paintings recently completed and being considered for a new book:-



Pattersons Bay Island                  Pen & Ink Study



Oxtongue Lake       Watercolour painting   2017



Pattersons Bay Island   Oxtongue Lake          Watercolour Painting 2017











Monday, 13 March 2017

EXPLORING THE WEST 1999 (Part Three)

It was a long drive, a total of 3,100 km, to get to Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, but it was well worth the effort. The park is quite unique, lots of wildlife and incredible scenery. We had many sightings of bears, fortunately Black bears as opposed to Grizzlies. I say fortunate as, by the time that we arrived we had become a bit paranoid about Grizzlies, having read that a couple of weeks before our arrival a poor chap living in Pincher Creek had the misfortune of having an encounter with a female grizzly, with cubs. He survived, but had suffered severe life threatening, disfiguring, injuries.

Actually, we weren't the only ones a bit paranoid. While there we went on a loosely organized hike up into the mountains to an alpine lake. I say loosely, as it involved our taking a boat ride to the trailhead on the opposite side of the lake, then together with seventeen other hikers, we were pointed to the trail and warned to be back for the return trip at 5:30 pm, and left to fend for ourselves. Many wore bells, and had whistles, to warn bears on the trail ahead of our coming. Unfortunately, bells and whistles don't really work to alert bears. Both bells and whistles could have the opposite effect. The bears prey on marmots that whistle warnings, and bells are simply a noise that should be investigated. The best way to warn bears of your presence, so that they're not surprised and can get off the trail before you arrive, is to simply talk, or sing. For the first few miles of the hike Sandy and I talked and sang songs (badly), then like many married couples who have been married for 30 years, we ran out of things to talk about, and simply walked in silence with the odd call to possibly alert a bear of our presence. Happily, it seems to have worked as we survived the hike, and arrived back at the trailhead before 5:30 pm for the return boat ride.

I can't help but stress the importance of sketching, and making notes. Looking at my sketches, and reading my notes made 18 years ago, memories, wonderful memories, come flooding back. I remember the strong, almost gale force, winds sweeping down the lake,  an encounter with a coyote while hiking a trail that led across a mountain meadow, but most of all the quiet and solitude enjoyed while hiking in the mountains.

By the time we arrived in Waterton Lakes I was getting over the fear of sketching landscape in the presence of others. It's a real problem for beginners, the idea that someone might come along and look over your shoulder, and make a disparaging remark. Once you get used to the idea that a sketch is simply a sketch, important yes, but not really an exhibition piece of art, you become comfortable sketching just about anywhere.

















































As my notes mention, after leaving Waterton Lakes National Park we travelled to Grasslands, then a Provincial Park, now a National Park. Grasslands proved to be a most wonderful experience. Sandy and I are ardent bird watchers and Grasslands and its surrounding area is a birder's paradise. We observed an incredible number of species including Prairie Falcon and Burrowing Owls. We stayed at The Convent, a marvellous property run by incredible hosts, once a Convent and Catholic school it was saved days before it was to be torn down, and turned into a Bed & Breakfast. From there we travelled home stopping briefly at Lake Superior Provincial Park to make a few sketches.
 A marvellous trip, and a wonderful experience.






Grasslands National Park          Watercolour Field Sketch

An amusing incident while doing these sketches of Grasslands. We were driving a Dodge van at the time. It was scorching hot, and to get out of the strong sunlight I sought shelter in the open side door of the van. I'm short sighted so I wear glasses while sketching. While sketching I found that I was experiencing some difficulty focus with my right eye. Thinking I was going blind, but wanting to complete my sketches I continued painting. It was only after finishing and packing up that I discovered that one of the lens in my glasses had fallen out. It's perhaps needless to say that I was much relieved to learn that there was nothing wrong with my eyesight.


Grasslands National Park    Watercolour Field Sketch












Sunday, 12 March 2017

EXPLORING THE WEST 1999 (Part Two)



In Part One we travelled to Cypress Hills Provincial Park in Alberta, and were about to head off to Waterton Lakes National Park. Before doing so I thought to reveal how a simple very quick sketch, such as that done above while standing on the hydro dam at the Montreal River, can lead to something a bit more involved:-



Graphite Study #1 


Graphite Study #2



Graphite Study #3




Watercolour Study- Montreal River



Montreal River    Watercolour Painting I



Montreal River    Watercolour Painting II

We've been back that way several time since making my original sketch, and the subsequent studies and paintings depicted. It's interesting to note that back when the Group of Seven painted in this area there were no hydro dams on the Montreal River. As for this location, since the 911 terrorist attack in New York city security measures have been put in place at hydro facilities such as this. A fence ringed with barbed wire, and security cameras now prevents visitors from gaining access to the dam, and this very scenic view.





























Friday, 10 March 2017

EXPLORING THE WEST 1999 (Part One)

I'm continually encouraging young persons to keep diaries, and make sketches to preserve memories. Photographs won't do, as without reference, place and time taken tend to blur. Take the time to write a few words, or make a sketch, and years later they'll talk to you reminding you of not only place and time, but of sounds and smells.

This past while I've been looking through some of my sketchbooks hoping to find inspiration, and I came across an early sketchbook with a few sketches, and a bit of a diary relating to a trip west that we took back in 1999. As we left our home in Ontario it began to rain, and it continued to rain for five days, not stopping until we we're well into Manitoba. Not an encouraging sign for the long trip out to Alberta. None the less the trip proved to be well worth the long drive, and I thought that perhaps I should share this little adventure to emphasize the value of making a sketchbook.

Back in 1999 I was moving away from exhibiting away from my studio, and exploring making digital books. Up to that time I had exhibited regularly at various festivals, exhibiting wildlife paintings and prints. Having discovered Algonquin Provincial Park, and the Group of Seven I was making a move away from wildlife painting and printmaking and attempting to learn how to sketch and paint landscape. It was an interesting time in my career as an artist. There was so much to learn. The trip west was a learning experience in many ways.

I won't include descriptions of the various pages from my sketchbook, as most of the entries have their own descriptions.









































We spent a couple of days at Cypress Hills exploring the area. We saw our first Pink-sided Juncos.  I attempted a few watercolour field sketches from the lookout at Cypress Hills Provincial Park. I was amazed at the rugged landscape. Most of us from the east believe that the Prairie Provinces are quite flat. We discovered that this is a bit of a myth, and that some areas remind one of the Badlands that you can experience south of the border in the USA. From the lookout you could see for miles, and miles. One day while sketching, off in the distance, I could see a speck of a yellow, a school bus travelling on the prairie delivering its passengers to a homestead hidden by a cluster of trees, the only trees visible for miles around.







Keep in mind while reading my scribbled entries, that sketchbooks are not all about making art. The purpose of sketchbooks is to preserve memories and possibilities for future art, and to remind us of our time spent.

From Cypress Hills we travelled on to Waterton National Park in Alberta, but that's another story, something that we'll save for a future posting.