Monday, 29 October 2012


Many years ago I was dragged kicking and screaming on a naturalist outing. It was quite early in the spring and the birders of the club had arranged an outing to a local marsh to observe the duck migration. It was cold and windy and to make matters worse, at times the sky would opened up and pelt us with a combination of light rain and wet snow. Birders, in the event that you’re unaware, are a hardy group and much like the postman are deterred by neither rain, nor snow, nor……well, anyway, you get the picture.

 I wasn’t into birding at that time. I was still committed to a business career and rarely took time off to pursue anything not connected to my business. Sandy, my wife, had suggested that I take a few minutes away from work letting me know that there was more to life than work, and more work.

We all met at a prearranged place and car-pooled, then set off in a caravan of vehicles heading out to the marsh. From time to time the caravan would come to a screeching halt and the outing leader would race from his vehicle followed by others, and stand by the side of the road pointing at something in a nearby field. Then, all would train their binoculars at what I assumed was a bird of some type, make a note on a piece of paper, then pile back into their cars and we’d head off again. This went on for what seemed to me to be forever, and although we had left the prearranged meeting place an hour before, we seemed to be making little progress in getting to the marsh.  As this stopping and starting appeared as if it was to be the pattern of the day the next  time the caravan stopped I decided to exit the vehicle in which I was a passenger and stretch my legs. I got out and was standing at the side appearing disinterested when a older lady came up to me and asked if I’d like to use her binoculars to see what everybody was looking at. Being the polite person that I am I agreed and taking her binoculars and training them on the spot that she was pointing at, then focusing the lenses, I saw a small brown bird with a white throat and white markings on its head. “It’s a White-throated Sparrow” she said. Silly as it sounds to me saying it it years later, I was hooked, enthralled to see this beautiful, tiny bird. From that moment on I became a birder, soon to become an avid birder, and still am some 40 years later. Little did I know it at that time, but I had embraced the sport of birding, probably the most perfect sport in the world.

A few years later I left a successful career to pursue life as an artist, a life that involved drawing and painting birds, and the promotion of all things natural. I became an artist-naturalist, and as a part of what I did I promoted the sport of bird watching.

I tell people that it is the most perfect sport in the world as it can be done by everyone regardless of your age and physical condition. Persons who are physically challenged can easily bird wherever there are birds, and this is just about everyplace in the world. It can be done anytime of the day, or night, as birds are active 24/7. Even sight challenged persons can become birders relying upon sound to identify the various species. The wonderful thing about birding is that you don’t need a lot of equipment, an inexpensive pair of binoculars and a bird guide, and you’re set for life. And, as I’m heard to tell people, another wonderful thing is that all the money that one must spend on other sports just for equipment can now be channeled into travel and all of its attributes to discover more birds…….just as Sandy and I did a couple of weeks ago travelling to Lake Superior Provincial Park where amongst other more common birds we observed Bald Eagles, Boreal Chickadees, Horned Larks, White-Crowned and White-throated Sparrows, and so on……Happy Birding!

Mantling Kestrel  
Pencil Study

Still Waters
 (Common Loon)  Etching

Hairy Woodpecker  
Pencil Study

White-breasted Nuthatch  
Hand Coloured Etching

Black-capped Chickadee  
Pencil Study

Red-breasted Nuthatch on Fungus  
Watercolour Painting

Snowy Owl      
Watercolour Painting

Kestrel on Birch Stump

Watercolour Painting

White-breasted Nuthatch
  Pencil Study

Black-capped Chickadee      Pencil Study

Saturday, 27 October 2012

ALGOMA - Group of Seven Country

Many years ago, back in the early 1900s, a group of seven Canadian artists, aptly called the Group of Seven, placed their brand on the portrayal of the Canadian landscape. They began their explorations deep in southern Ontario in the Toronto area and expanded their wanderings north to what is now known as Algonquin Provincial Park. Following the First World War they explored to the northwest to the La Cloche region now known as Killarney Provincial Park, and then before disbanding to the Algoma region an area that now encompasses several Provincial and Federal parks, namely Lake Superior Provincial Park and Pukaskwa National Park.

The members of the Group of Seven and their contemporary, Tom Thomson, have long since passed, but their art continues to dominate tempting many artists to follow in their footsteps. And, I must confess that I’m one of those artists. Early into my career as an artist I became intrigued by the dynamics of the Group. Try as I did to ignore their accomplishments I eventually succumbed to the romance of their wanderings and have spent a good many years following in their footsteps sketching and painting.

Algoma to the members of the Group of Seven meant anything west of Sudbury, Ontario, to the vast area north of  Lake Superior. It’s interesting to note that the members of the Group were not young men when they undertook to paint this wilderness. They went where the trains could take them, and then camped out and climbed to the top of the hills. Their excursions into the wilderness were generally undertaken during the autumn at which time weather conditions were not the best. They spent but a very few years exploring, but their accomplishments are legendary in the annals of Canadian Art.

Their accomplishments are an impossible act to follow each artist having become a Canadian icon. Art critics have remarked that when it comes to painting the Canadian landscape Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven “have said all”. Still, there are those of us who head out into the wilderness at every chance to sketch and paint the impossible. I suppose that it’s all about the allure to explore places less travelled, and to share in the romance that captured the hearts of the Group of Seven. 

Old Woman River
 - Lake Superior Provincial Park  Pen & Ink Sketch on beige coloured paper

Awausee Trail Outlook-Lake Superior Provincial Park     
Pencil sketch on beige coloured paper

Spruce Island-Lake Superior Provincial Park   
Pencil sketch

Thumbnail Pencil Sketches of Lake Superior  Provincial Park

Island - Pukaskwa National Park    
Pencil Sketch

Pukaskwa National Park    Pencil Sketch

Outlook - Pukaskwa National Park  
Pencil Sketch

Pic Island - Lake Superior  
Pencil Drawing

Saturday, 6 October 2012


This past summer we spent some time in Algonquin Provincial Park, as well as Lake Superior Provincial Park. Not a lot of time mind you, a week in Algonquin, and the better part of a week in Lake Superior Provincial Park. Between rain showers I managed to make a few sketches and upon returning home a few drawings. Later this week we'll head back up to Lake Superior Provincial Park, the Group of Seven's Agawa, and if the weather holds clear and it doesn't snow we'll make a few more sketches. Come winter we'll turn some of these sketches and drawings into paintings.........and if I get real ambitious, perhaps I'll put them to use as illustrations for a new ebook.

Algoma Landscape  Graphite Drawing

Algoma Series - Creek   Graphite Drawing on Buff Coloured Paper

Algonquin Series - Small Roadside Lake  Graphite On Buff Coloured Paper

Lake Of Two Rivers - East Beach - Algonquin  Graphite Sketch

Lake Of Two Rivers - East Beach - Algonquin  Water Colour Sketch